Kawhi Leonard

Pacific Notes: Suns’ Buyout Options, Durant, Booker, Harden, LeBron, Curry

The Suns have numerous options on the buyout market, but their preferred targets may not be available, writes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. Phoenix had two roster spots open after an active trade deadline, and one of those will be filled by Thaddeus Young, who is expected to finalize his reported deal with the team early this week, according to Bourguet.

The Suns are looking for help in several areas, and one of their top priorities was reportedly Delon Wright, who is expected to sign with Miami. Sources tell Bourguet that Phoenix also considered Danilo Gallinari, but he was crossed off the list after the agreement with Young and wound up signing with Milwaukee. Bourguet also cites mutual interest in a reunion with Bismack Biyombo before he reached a deal with Oklahoma City.

Bourguet identifies ideal targets as Spurs forward Cedi Osman and Jazz forward Otto Porter, who hasn’t played since being acquired from Toronto at the deadline. However, there hasn’t been a strong indication that either player will reach a buyout before the March 1 deadline to be eligible for the postseason with a new team. If they aren’t available, Bourguet looks at Danuel House as a potential signing, along with the possibility that Saben Lee could be promoted from his two-way contract.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker both talked Saturday about the connection they’ve formed after a full year as teammates, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “We have the same likes in life,” Booker said. “We’re hoops junkies and that’s where it started. Now we spend a lot more time together, man. We like to kick it, chill. Talk basketball and play video games.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue believes the early-season trade for James Harden relaxed the burden on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, enabling both stars to stay healthier, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register.“(Having Harden) makes it a lot easier on Kawhi and PG not to have to handle and make every play for themselves and for our team,” Lue said. “So, James has been great, just keeps everybody happy … takes a lot of grind off of PG and Kawhi.”
  • In the wake of a report that the Warriors contacted the Lakers about LeBron James before the deadline, Bruce Jenkins of The San Francisco Chronicle looks at what would have to happen if James and Stephen Curry decide they want to join forces with Golden State.

Clippers Notes: Leonard, Gallinari, Tucker, Hyland

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard missed his fifth game of the season on Wednesday vs. Golden State due to a left adductor strain, but head coach Tyronn Lue said the injury isn’t significant, according to Kendra Andrews of ESPN.

I don’t think it’s that serious,” Lue said before Wednesday’s game. “He played through it last game (on Monday), was experiencing some soreness in the hip, so when the game got out of reach we didn’t bring him back in the fourth quarter to be smart about it.”

Leonard was named to his sixth All-Star team in 2023/24, but his status for this weekend’s exhibition game is to be determined. The 32-year-old is expected to travel to Indianapolis either way, a source told ESPN.

Here’s more on the Clippers, who are currently 36-17, the No. 3 seed in the West:

  • Bucks guard Patrick Beverley sent out a tweet through his podcast’s account saying veteran forward Danilo Gallinari will either sign with the Clippers or the Bucks. While he couldn’t corroborate Milwaukee’s interest, Law Murray of The Athletic confirms (Twitter link) the Clippers are open to a reunion with Gallinari, who spent two seasons with the Clips from 2017-19. However, as Murray observes, the Clippers currently have a full roster, and there isn’t an obvious candidate to be released. The 35-year-old became an unrestricted free agent after he was waived by Detroit last week. The Suns are reportedly among the teams interested in Gallinari’s services.
  • Forward P.J. Tucker claims that not playing leading up to the trade deadline was a “collaborative decision” with the Clippers, according to Shams Charania and Law Murray of The Athletic. Tucker hasn’t played in a game since November 27. “It was agreed upon that I would sit,” Tucker told The Athletic over the weekend. “I didn’t just sit, it was agreed upon. Until they moved me, I would sit. They didn’t do it. But (I) try to be professional, as professional as possible. But at the same time, if I don’t advocate for myself, who is? You know? But it is what it is, man.” Tucker was fined $75K on Thursday for publicly expressing a desire to be traded.
  • Tucker also told The Athletic it’s unrealistic to expect him to be productive in the postseason after not playing for so long in the regular season. “Becoming teammates, you’re building bonds,” Tucker said. “You have to take time when you have something built. Can’t just throw somebody out there, ‘Go play now.’ You know what I’m saying? It don’t work like that. So I don’t know where it goes from here. I don’t know. I know what they think is going to happen. But I don’t think it happens like that. Just throw somebody in the playoffs in the second round. ‘Alright, now go do what you do.’ Don’t work like that.”
  • Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning about sending home Tucker and Bones Hyland, Lue suggested that Hyland may have submitted his own trade request prior to last week’s deadline after receiving scant playing time the past few months. The third-year guard has struggled in his limited garbage-time minutes, Charania and Murray note. “You want to have competitors on your team,” Lue said. “They want to play. So when you try to get traded, it doesn’t work out, and you want to go to a place (where you can) play, it doesn’t mean they’re not happy here. They are. But they want to play, they want to compete.” Tucker holds a $11.54MM player option for 2024/25, while Hyland is owed a guaranteed $4.16MM in the final season of his rookie scale contract.

Pacific Notes: Zubac, Green, Beal, Young, Gallinari, Leonard

Clippers center Ivica Zubac is dealing with a minutes restriction since returning from a calf injury, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register notes, averaging 20.5 minutes in four games. He had 11 rebounds in 23 minutes against Minnesota on Monday.

“I wanted to play a little more, but I got to trust the process,” Zubac said. “I didn’t go to my limits, so the game was like that. I can’t complain. If I was not in foul trouble, if I was playing a little better, I would have been out there more.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors are riding a five-game winning streak and Draymond Green believes his 16-game league suspension played in a role in the resurgence, ESPN’s Kendra Andrews writes. Golden State had to adjust without Green and Jonathan Kuminga emerged as a starter in his absence, while other young players cracked the rotation. “I think me getting suspended helped in a weird way,” Green said. “Not that I wanted to get suspended, but I do think that helped us find different things we can go to and explore.”
  • Bradley Beal departed the Suns’ game on Tuesday early due to a left hamstring injury, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.
  • The impending addition of Thaddeus Young will add size and physicality to the Suns, Bourguet writes. Young can serve as a small-ball center at times and a connector at the offensive end.
  • The Suns will still have a roster spot open when Young officially signs. They have also shown interest in Danilo Gallinari, who was waived by the Pistons after the trade deadline, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. It’s unclear whether they will still pursue Gallinari once they officially sign Young on the buyout market, given that they also added two forwards – Royce O’Neale and David Roddy – via trade last week.
  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard (left adductor strain) won’t play against the Warriors on Wednesday, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears tweets. It will be the fifth game he’s missed this season.

And-Ones: MVP Race, 2024 Draft, Korkmaz, Okafor, More

With Joel Embiid no longer eligible for this season’s MVP award due to the number of games he has missed, the race appears wide open, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, who conducted another version of his straw poll ahead of the All-Star break.

The 100 media members polled over the weekend by MacMahon selected Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as the current MVP favorite, with Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the runner-up. Jokic earned 69 first-place votes and was the only player selected by all 100 voters on their five-player ballots, while Gilgeous-Alexander was listed on 99 ballots and was the top choice on 24 of them.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, and Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard rounded out the top five in Bontemps’ latest poll, with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, and Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell also appearing on double-digit ballots. Notably, while just four of 100 media members had Anthony Edwards in their top five, one made the Timberwolves guard their MVP choice.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Although Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN (Insider link) still feel as if the 2024 draft class is short on high-end talent, they believe it could end up being a relatively deep draft. Givony and Woo suggest that some teams will be able to find rotation players later in the first round or in the second round, even if there are no sure-fire stars at the top of the class.
  • After being traded from Philadelphia to Indiana and then waived by the Pacers, veteran swingman Furkan Korkmaz has turned down interest from Turkish club Besiktas for now and is hoping to remain in the NBA, according to a report from Eurohoops. Korkmaz didn’t play much for the Sixers the past two seasons, but is still just 26 years old and is a 36.1% three-point shooter over the past five years.
  • Former lottery pick Jahlil Okafor is on the move again, having recently signed with Puerto Rican team Capitanes de Arecibo, as Dario Skerletic of Sportando relays. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor played in Spain and China earlier this season. He last played in the NBA with Detroit in 2020/21.
  • Grizzlies guard Vince Williams has been chosen to replace injured Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels in this Friday’s Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend, while Indiana Mad Ants guard Kyle Mangas will replace Sixers two-way player Kenneth Lofton Jr. in the G League Next Up game, according to a pair of announcements from the NBA and NBAGL.

Kawhi Leonard, Trae Young Named Players Of The Week

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Hawks guard Trae Young have been named the NBA’s Players of the Week, the league announced (via Twitter).

Leonard helped lead L.A. to a 3-1 record last week, averaging 29.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 block while posting a .566/.480/1.000 shooting line (33.4 minutes). The 32-year-old was recently named an All-Star reserve for the Western Conference, his sixth selection to the exhibition contest.

Young, 25, helped guide Atlanta to a perfect 3-0 record last week, averaging 31.0 points, 11.3 assists and 1.7 steals on .569/.645/.778 shooting (39.6 minutes). A two-time All-Star, Young wasn’t selected this season, likely in part due to the Hawks’ record (they’re 22-27), but he could be named an injury replacement for Julius Randle or Joel Embiid, unless the league prioritizes frontcourt players.

According to the NBA, the other nominees in the West were Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis, while Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Jalen Brunson, Donovan Mitchell and Cam Thomas were nominated in the East (Twitter link).

2024 NBA All-Star Reserves Revealed

The 2024 NBA All-Star reserves were announced on Thursday night, according to a release from the NBA (Twitter links). Below is a rundown of the 14 players set to join the previously announced starters in the All-Star Game set in Indianapolis on Feb. 18. All-Star reserves are selected by the league’s head coaches.

Eastern Conference Reserves:

Maxey, Brunson and Banchero are first-time All-Stars. Brunson was a strong contender for a starting guard spot in the Eastern Conference, a spot that ultimately went to Bucks guard Damian Lillard. Mitchell (five), Brown (three), Adebayo (three), and Randle (three) are all multi-time selections.

As observed by ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), Randle earns a $1.3MM bonus by making the All-Star Game. Though with the Knicks forward set to miss extended time, it’s likely the NBA will name an injury replacement player. Injury replacements are named by commissioner Adam Silver.

If Brown plays in 65 games by the end of the year, he’ll receive a $1.7MM bonus for his All-Star nod, according to Marks, who adds that Celtics guard Jrue Holiday had a $348K All-Star bonus that is now deemed unlikely.

Hawks guard Trae Young, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, Boston’s Holiday, Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis, Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, Magic forward Franz Wagner, Bulls guard Coby White, Pacers center Myles Turner and Heat forward Jimmy Butler are among players who had cases to make the game but didn’t.

Western Conference Reserves:

Every player among the Western Conference’s reserves is now a multi-time All-Star. This is Curry’s 10th All-Star appearance, leading the group. George and Davis will be making their ninth appearances. Booker (four), Edwards (tw0), Towns (four) and Leonard (six) round out the list.

Having not been selected to the All-Star Game, Kings forward Domantas Sabonis will miss out on a $1.3MM bonus, according to Marks (Twitter link). Sabonis would regain that bonus if he’s named as an injury replacement, but none of the 12 Western All-Stars appear in danger of missing the game at this point.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox and Sabonis, Rockets center Alperen Sengun, Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams, Wolves center Rudy Gobert, Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama, New Orleans forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, Clippers guard James Harden and Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen are among those who missed the cut in the West.

Pacific Notes: Wiggins, Siakam, Green, Clippers, Durant

The Warriors have fielded player-for-player offers for forward Andrew Wiggins, sources told Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Though Wiggins is the Warriors player most likely to be moved before next month’s trade deadline, there hasn’t been an offer that has enticed them enough to make a deal. It’s key to note that they wouldn’t necessarily need to attach a draft pick to shed his contract, according to Slater. Wiggins is in the first season of a four-year, $109MM extension.

Golden State could go through the deadline without making a significant deal, despite its disappointing record. The internal expectations of making that kind of move have steadily decreased over the last month, Slater hears.

The Warriors remain in the buyers column, but they are reluctant to part with valuable pieces and don’t own their first-rounder this year. They are seeking a strong second option to pair with Stephen Curry but probably lack the assets to get that type of player.

They had exploratory conversations with the Raptors regarding Pascal Siakam before he was traded to Indiana. However, the Warriors’ most valued trade chip — Jonathan Kuminga — wouldn’t have been an ideal fit next to Raptors franchise player Scottie Barnes since their skill sets overlap.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors forward Draymond Green said he harbors no resentment for being left off Team USA’s pool of players under consideration for this year’s Olympics, according to Michael Wagaman of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I would like to believe that there’s some guys in that pool that I’m just not as good as,” Green said. “Didn’t quite think it would be so many great players in the pool because it just hasn’t been [that way] over the last couple of Olympic cycles. Then you look up and all of a sudden the ‘who’s who’ is there. I’m no idiot. You go with the who’s who and you figure it out.” Green was part of the 2016 and 2021 Olympic gold medal teams.
  • On that same topic, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden are on Team USA’s 41-player list and are legitimate candidates to make the 12-man Olympic roster, says Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Coach Tyronn Lue is an assistant on the USA coaching staff and he’d like to see at least one of them wind up on the 12-man roster. “Hopefully, it works out,” Lue said.
  • Suns star Kevin Durant says he’s looking forward to returning to Brooklyn for the first time since last season’s trade. Phoenix visits the Nets on Wedneday. “I’m excited,” Durant said. “It’s always fun playing in Brooklyn, it’s always fun playing in New York. Can’t wait to see some of the people that I worked with that I got to know over the last four years. New York City has become my favorite city in the world just from me living there for four years. I miss it a lot. I built a lot of bonds and relationships with the people that actually worked in the organization.”

And-Ones: Watanabe, Japan, Risacher, McDonald’s All-Americans, All-Stars

Japan won its first FIBA World Cup game in 17 years in 2023, and Suns wing Yuta Watanabe was a big part of that team. Watanabe reminisced on his summer in a conversation with HoopsHype’s Sam Yip, expressing optimism for Japan’s future in basketball.

If I’m going to retire in five, six years in a realistic world, we [are probably] not going to be one of the top teams in the world in five years, but I think at least we will be good enough to compete against those great teams,” Watanabe said. “I mean we did a good job against Germany and Australia in the World Cup. We lost by 20 but we won the second half. I think in five, six years we gonna be there to compete against those teams.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • French wing Zaccharie Risacher is making a case to be one of the first players selected in the 2024 draft during a historically productive season, ESPN’s Jeremy Woo writes (ESPN+ link). Risacher boasts a mix of positional size, scoring, play-making, defense and smarts, according to Woo. His physical profile is similar to that of Shane Battier and Ziaire Williams. Woo breaks down the rest of Risacher’s game, explaining why he could go No. 1 overall and considering which teams might make sense for him.
  • The 2024 McDonald’s All-American Game roster was unveiled on ESPN on Tuesday, and it features potential 2025 No. 1 overall picks Cooper Flagg and Ace Bailey (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jonathan Givony). Kentucky commit Boogie Fland, Duke commit Isaiah Evans, Washington commit Zoom Diallo and Rutgers commit Dylan Harper are among others featured on the rosters.
  • Ahead of the All-Star starters being unveiled earlier Thursday, The Ringer’s Michael Pina broke down his official starter ballot, as well as who he thinks the reserves should be. Pina voted for Tyrese Haliburton, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic, all of which mirrored the official selections. However, Pina had New York’s Jalen Brunson over Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard on his ballot. He also picked the Lakers’ Anthony Davis and the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard over LeBron James and Phoenix’s Kevin Durant. Check out the rest of his selections here.

Team USA Announces 41-Player Pool For 2024 Olympics

USA Basketball has officially announced a pool of 41 players who are in the mix for the 12 spots on the 2024 Olympic men’s basketball team.

While the pool is subject to change, Team USA’s 12-man roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics will, in all likelihood, be made up of players from this group.

The list figures to shrink as the summer nears due to players suffering injuries or opting not to participate for other reasons, but at some point prior to the July event the U.S. decision-makers will have to choose a final roster from the remaining candidates.

Here’s the full list of 41 players, 28 of whom have represented Team USA in a previous World Cup or Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  3. Paolo Banchero (Magic)
  4. Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)
  5. Scottie Barnes (Raptors)
  6. Devin Booker (Suns)
  7. Mikal Bridges (Nets)
  8. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  9. Jalen Brunson (Knicks)
  10. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  11. Alex Caruso (Bulls)
  12. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  13. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Suns)
  15. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)
  16. Joel Embiid (Sixers)
  17. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  18. Paul George (Clippers)
  19. Aaron Gordon (Nuggets)
  20. Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers)
  21. James Harden (Clippers)
  22. Josh Hart (Knicks)
  23. Tyler Herro (Heat)
  24. Jrue Holiday (Celtics)
  25. Chet Holmgren (Thunder)
  26. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  27. Kyrie Irving (Mavericks)
  28. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)
  29. LeBron James (Lakers)
  30. Cameron Johnson (Nets)
  31. Walker Kessler (Jazz)
  32. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  33. Damian Lillard (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers)
  35. Chris Paul (Warriors)
  36. Bobby Portis (Bucks)
  37. Austin Reaves (Lakers)
  38. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Derrick White (Celtics)
  41. Trae Young (Hawks)

Adebayo, Booker, Durant, Holiday, Lillard, and Tatum were part of the Olympic team that won gold in Tokyo in 2021. Jerami Grant, Draymond Green, Keldon Johnson, Zach LaVine, JaVale McGee, and Khris Middleton were also on that roster, but aren’t part of the preliminary pool this time around. It’s possible some of them turned down invitations.

“The United States boasts unbelievable basketball talent and I am thrilled that many of the game’s superstars have expressed interest in representing our country at the 2024 Olympic Summer Games,” national team managing director Grant Hill said in a statement. “It is a privilege to select the team that will help us toward the goal of once again standing atop the Olympic podium. This challenging process will unfold over the next several months as we eagerly anticipate the start of national team activity.”

USA Basketball also announced today that Team USA will face Team Canada in Las Vegas on July 10 in an exhibition game. It sounds like that contest will take place during the NBA’s 2024 Summer League.

Pacific Notes: Leonard, Frank, Lue, Green, Durant

Kawhi Leonard has been eligible for an extension for the past six months, and Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank never had any doubt that a deal would get done, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. signed the star forward to a three-year, $152.4MM extension on Wednesday that will keep him under contract through the 2026/27 season.

“We knew this union was going to happen,” Frank told reporters before Wednesday’s game. “We both wanted it to happen and we came to an agreement.”

Frank added that there was “no hesitation” about making such a large commitment to a player with a long injury history who is in 30s. Leonard has dispelled some of those physical concerns this season by playing in the Clippers’ first 27 games and 32 of 36 overall. The team is 13-1 with him in the lineup since the start of December and he’s putting up All-Star numbers over that stretch, averaging 26.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals per night while shooting 57% from the field and 48% from long distance.

Lawrence added that Leonard’s willingness to accept less that the full amount he was eligible to receive — approximately $220MM over four years — will help the organization in upcoming negotiations with Paul George and James Harden.

“In order to win, you need to be able to have flexibility to have really good teammates,” Frank said. “And in order to do that, there’s sacrifices that need to be made. And what I love what I’ve heard from our guys, what Kawhi has shown is … we want everyone to be compensated fairly and yet also preserve flexibility to both in the short and long term have contending rosters.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Leonard’s extension with the Clippers includes a 15% trade kicker, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • Coaches and players throughout the league are recognizing the job that Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has done in making all the pieces mesh after the early-season trade for Harden, per Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Lue guided the team through a rough stretch after Harden arrived and found a way to build an effective offense around numerous players who are used to having the ball in their hands. “He was giving us confidence, he was telling us this is not going to last for a long time, that we’re going to figure out, figure out how we want to play both ways. (He kept saying) it’s going to happen, and he was the one that was preaching that from the start, and we trusted it,” Ivica Zubac said. “Now we’re playing at a high level, and everyone is really confident. We know what we want to do, and it’s been a big time for him.”
  • Whenever Draymond Green resumes playing, he hopes to cut out the antics that have already led to two extended suspensions this season, relays Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Green addressed his behavior Tuesday at a news conference that marked his return to Warriors practice. “I’ve cost my team enough. I’ve cost this organization enough,” he said. Green will accompany the team on its upcoming trip and may return to action in one of the road games, Andrews tweets.
  • Suns star Kevin Durant clarified that he intended “no ill will” when he said last month that he hopes Green “gets the help that he needs” following “incident after incident,” per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.