- The Spurs have assigned guards Brandon Paul and Derrick White to their G League affiliate, according to a press release. White has played eight games for the Austin Spurs this season, but it’s Paul’s first assignment. The duo figures to suit up for Austin tonight in the club’s game against Grand Rapids.
- While it was announced that Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard would be out for an “indefinite period” of time to rehab his right quadriceps injury, the injury isn’t as disastrous as some have interpreted it as. “Career-threatening shouldn’t even be in the conversation,” one person close to Leonard told Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard will be sidelined for an “indefinite period of time,” the club announced today (Twitter link). According to the team’s announcement, Leonard is still battling right quadriceps tendinopathy and will focus on rehabbing that injury.
In a statement, Spurs GM R.C. Buford said that Leonard “continues to move forward in his rehabilitation.” Meanwhile, head coach Gregg Popovich tells Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News that the injury “hasn’t responded the way we wanted it to.”
“He’s given it a shot,” Popovich said of his star player. “He’s frustrated as hell. He wants to play badly. But if we’re going to err, we’re going to do it on the side of health and being wise.”
After sitting out for nearly two months to start the season due to his quad injury, Leonard returned to action on December 12. He has missed several games since then though, never playing with less than two days rest. Even when he has been on the floor, the 26-year-old hasn’t been his usual dominant self — his .468 FG% and .314 3PT% are career lows, albeit in a small sample (nine games).
With Leonard out, Kyle Anderson will continue to see the majority of the minutes at the three for San Antonio. Rudy Gay will also help fortify the Spurs’ forward rotation once he gets healthy, while Danny Green and Manu Ginobili could also play small forward in certain lineups. However, according to McDonald, Gay is still a couple weeks away from returning and Ginobili is expected to miss the Spurs’ next two games with a thigh contusion.
The Cavaliers continue to hang onto a top-three seed in the East, but the team has dropped four consecutive games and eight of its last 10 — in terms of wins and losses, the 26-17 Cavs are now the same distance from the eighth-seeded Pistons (22-20) as they are from the second-seeded Raptors (29-13).
Cleveland’s slump has multiple players speaking to reporters – including Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com – to express a “growing discontent” with the state of the team. There’s increasing concern in the Cavs’ locker room that the squad’s problems aren’t fixable from within, according to McMenamin and Vardon.
“Rotations are awful. [Isaiah Thomas] is so much worse than Kyrie [Irving] defensively it’s insane,” one league source told Vardon. “There is not a great feeling anywhere. They need to limp into the All-Star break and get away from each other.”
The fact that Cavs players are expressing concerns to the media about the state of the franchise suggests that perhaps they’re trying to push the front office to make a trade to address some of those issues. According to Vardon, communication between the team’s front office and its players and coaches isn’t as frequent as it was under former GM David Griffin, so perhaps this is the simplest way for the players to send a message to management.
Here’s more from out of Cleveland:
- League sources continue to say that the Cavaliers prefer to hold onto the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick in case the team enters rebuilding mode next season, McMenamin writes in the piece linked above.
- A trusted source tells Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) that he believes the Cavaliers will “definitely” make at least one deal before the February 8 trade deadline. However, Stein is skeptical that there’s a single move out there that would allow the Cavs to close the gap between them and the Warriors.
- The Cavs can forget about winning the NBA Finals this year if they don’t make a trade in the next few weeks, opines Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net.
- In the wake of Gregg Popovich‘s comments about LaMarcus Aldridge‘s offseason trade request, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst compares and contrasts the way the Spurs handled that situation with the way that the Cavaliers handled Kyrie Irving‘s trade request.
Today is January 15, which means that trade restrictions have lifted for most of the rest of the NBA’s 2017 offseason signees. While the majority of those ’17 free agents became trade-eligible on December 15, there was a small subset of free agent signees whose trade ineligibility lasted for another month.
The 16 players whose trade restrictions lift today meet a specific set of criteria: Not only did they re-sign with their previous teams this offseason, but they received raises of at least 20%, their salaries are worth more than the minimum, and their teams were over the cap, using Bird or Early Bird rights to sign them.
The most notable name in this group is Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic. He’s not the best player on the list — Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry would be among those vying for that honor. But Mirotic is the most likely player to be dealt out of the 16 guys becoming trade-eligible today. He has been linked to a handful of teams already, including the Jazz, Pistons, and Trail Blazers.
Here are the 16 players becoming trade-eligible today:
- Cristiano Felicio (Bulls)
- JaMychal Green (Grizzlies)
- Blake Griffin (Clippers)
- Jrue Holiday (Pelicans)
- Serge Ibaka (Raptors)
- Andre Iguodala (Warriors)
- Joe Ingles (Jazz)
- Kyle Korver (Cavaliers)
- Shaun Livingston (Warriors)
- Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
- Patty Mills (Spurs)
- Nikola Mirotic (Bulls)
- Note: Any trade involving Mirotic requires his approval.
- Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
- Otto Porter (Wizards)
- Note: Any trade involving Porter requires his approval.
- Andre Roberson (Thunder)
- Tony Snell (Bucks)
With three and a half weeks left until this season’s February 8 trade deadline, nearly all of the NBA’s players are now eligible to be dealt. The only players still ineligible to be moved are those who signed free agent contracts later than October 15, plus certain players who signed contract extensions in the offseason.
Hawks guard Isaiah Taylor (January 17), Nuggets forward Richard Jefferson (January 19), and Pelicans guard Jameer Nelson (January 22) are now the only remaining players who will become trade-eligible between today and February 8. For the full list of players who won’t become trade-eligible before this year’s deadline, click here.
Before he signed a contract extension with the Spurs in October, LaMarcus Aldridge was the subject of frequent trade rumors. While it appeared San Antonio was willing to move Aldridge, head coach Gregg Popovich confirmed on Thursday that the big man himself was also in favor of a change of scenery. Asked about Aldridge’s bounce-back 2017/18 performance, Popovich said last night that the turning point was when the 32-year-old requested a trade in the offseason.
“It’s as simple as that,” Popovich said, per Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com. “I said, ‘Whoa, nobody’s ever said that to me before.’ It’s my 20-whatever year, and nobody’s ever said that like, ‘I’m not enjoying this. I’m not confident. I’m not sure you want me here. I want to be traded.'”
According to Popovich, he and Aldridge had some “dinners and meetings” before the season to clear the air and to talk through any issues between the player and team. The Spurs’ head coach accepted responsibility for Aldridge’s unhappiness, admitting he tried to turn the veteran into a different player, which he called “total overcoaching” on his part. By the time Aldridge signed his new contract with the Spurs and the season got underway, everyone was on the same page.
“I was very candid with him,” Popovich said. “I told him, ‘I’d be happy to trade you. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I’ll drive you to the airport. I’ll pack your bags. And I will drive you there, get you on the plane, and get you seated.’ He laughed, you know, that kind of thing. I said, ‘But short of that, I’m your best buddy because you’re here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere. Because we’re not gonna get for you talent-wise what we would want. So, let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did. That’s what we came to.”
In 41 games this season, Aldridge has averaged 22.6 PPG and 8.6 RPG, his best marks since joining the Spurs in 2015.
While it seems Kawhi Leonard may have partially torn his shoulder, the Spurs don’t seem particularly concerned about the injury. Immediately after mentioning the tear to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News, head coach Gregg Popovich said that the forward could potentially return before the end of the team’s three-game road trip.
Sidelined until mid-December with a quad injury, Leonard will now miss time just as he began to see an increased work load. Since the Spurs’ Boxing Day contest, Leonard had played four of five games, averaging 28.2 minutes and 21.3 points per game.
Back when he was on the trade block in July and August, Kyrie Irving reportedly had San Antonio on his list of preferred destinations. And according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Spurs weren’t just a bystander as the Cavaliers were considering their options. The Spurs “tried really, really hard” to land Irving, Woj said on ESPN late last night, per Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link).
Patty Mills, Tony Parker, and Dejounte Murray have handled point guard duties for the Spurs this season, and while they’ve been solid, the team clearly would have received a boost at the position by trading for Irving. However, it’s not clear what sort of package the front office could have put together that would have enticed the Cavs.
Unlike the Celtics, the Spurs weren’t holding any particularly attractive draft assets, since their own future first-round picks are unlikely to land in the lottery. LaMarcus Aldridge, who had yet to sign his new contract extension when Irving was dealt, could have been a trade chip. Danny Green probably would have appealed to Cleveland as well, but if the Cavs wanted to acquire a starting-caliber point guard for Irving, finding a match would have been tricky — Parker is 35 years old, Mills won’t be trade-eligible until January 15, and the 21-year-old Murray isn’t yet ready for a huge role.
While the Spurs’ pursuit of Irving didn’t pan out, Woj’s report on their strong interest in the former Cavs guard is the latest indication that San Antonio continues to explore ways to add star power, particularly at the point guard spot. The Spurs were also frequently linked to Chris Paul last spring before he was traded to Houston.
With Isaiah Thomas having returned to the Cavaliers on Tuesday, and the Cavs now poised to square off against the Celtics on Wednesday, it only makes sense to revisit one of the 2017 offseason’s biggest trades. ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan has done just that, taking a deep dive into the factors that led to Kyrie Irving heading from Cleveland to Boston.
Along the way, MacMullan passes along several noteworthy tidbits — while the whole piece is worth checking out, especially for Cavs and Celtics fans, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting details below:
- While Irving made his trade request in July, the Cavaliers explored the possibility of moving the point guard in June, which MacMullan suggests contributed to Irving’s decision to ask out of Cleveland. “They didn’t want me there,” Irving said of the Cavs. Former teammate LeBron James disputes that notion, which he says “makes absolutely no sense.”
- One deal the Cavs explored in June would have sent Irving and Channing Frye to the Suns and resulted in both Paul George and Eric Bledsoe landing in Cleveland. However, Phoenix balked at that deal, since the club was unwilling to give up the No. 4 overall pick, says MacMullan. A few days later, the Pacers dealt George to the Thunder instead.
- Although no formal offer was made during those negotiations, Irving caught wind of the talks and believed they were orchestrated by James’ camp, since LeBron shares an agent with Bledsoe. Team and league sources suggest otherwise, telling MacMullan that former Cavs GM David Griffin sensed that an Irving trade request may be coming and initiated talks with the Suns.
- When Irving and his agent met with the Cavaliers on July 9, they pressed owner Dan Gilbert about the team’s direction, and mentioned the Spurs, Knicks, and Timberwolves as preferred landing spots for Irving. Boston didn’t come up during that meeting, but Gilbert coveted the Nets‘ 2018 first-round pick that was held by the Celtics, and Irving’s camp didn’t oppose a deal to the C’s.
- When the Celtics emerged as a viable trade partner for Irving and the Cavs, Gilbert went to James and attempted to secure a promise that he’d stay in Cleveland beyond the 2017/18 season, but LeBron declined to commit, sources tell MacMullan.