Posts Tagged ‘Dallas Mavericks’

Three reasons ‘Melo should pick …


VIDEO: Where will Carmelo end up? What factors will he weigh? GameTime has the lowdown …

NBA.com staff

Free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony embarked on a coast-to-coast ‘Melo Across America tour this week, stopping in four different cities to be courted by five different teams. Now, he’s expected to lay low for a day or so — maybe more — as he decides whether to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Knicks, his team for the past three and a half years, or take his talents … elsewhere.

We asked five NBA.com writers across the nation to boil it down for Carmelo. So here are three reasons that Anthony should pick …

CHICAGO

1. The Bulls offer the best fit for his game. He’d be the cymbalist to their John Phillip Sousa, the finisher their ball-sharing offense needs. Only Michael Jordan and Al Capone, in Chicago history, have had greener lights to shoot. And coach Tom Thibodeau‘s team concepts would put lipstick on his defense.

2. Ring, or at least reputation: If he truly wants a championship, Chicago’s supporting cast offers the best shot, with Derrick Rose as a dynamic sidekick, Joakim Noah‘s Defensive Player of the Year fire and Taj Gibson grinding. Just to be known for trying to win, rather than maxing out money … this is his move.

3. New York is full of celebrities. Chicago would be his. This city is aching for star power beyond linebackers and anchormen, and it doesn’t overdo off-court scrutiny or paparazzi. His wife La La Vasquez could be Queen of the Windy City now that Oprah‘s gone.
Steve Aschburner

HOUSTON

1. He would be sliding into a lineup that already includes an All-NBA first team guard in James Harden and All-NBA second team center in Dwight Howard.  Never mind quibbling over last shots.  There wouldn’t be a better collection of three young talents all in their prime.

2. No state income tax makes up for a large portion of that $34 million he’d be leaving on the table in New York. And money, like everything else, just spends bigger in Texas.

3. If prematurely giving him Jeremy Lin’s jersey — with Lin’s warm corpse still in it — wasn’t enough of a “we’ll-do-anything” mentality, Carmelo could probably just ask and the Rockets would chisel his name right over Hakeem Olajuwon’s on that statue in front of the Toyota Center.
Fran Blinebury

DALLAS

1. The Mavs won 49 games in a tough Western Conference with one of the most efficient offenses in the league. Add Melo to Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, plus newly reacquired Tyson Chandler to bolster the defense and Dallas could be cooking.

2. Coach Rick Carlisle continues to prove he is among the elite tacticians in the game. He’s made the most of nearly fully flipped rosters over the last few seasons. He could be scary good with additional star power and continuity.

3. As controversial as Mark Cuban‘s decision was not to bring back the 2011 title team and plot instead to create cap space under this CBA, Dallas is positioned to add another big-salary free agent in 2015.
Jeff Caplan

LAKERS

1. The Lakers have proven they can not only build a championship roster, but win a title and then rebuild. Anthony is 30. If he’s looking at a four- or five-year contract, depending where he signs and whether it is a sign-and-trade, he needs to know the organization will be able to get somewhere pretty fast. L.A. is farther down the standings than any of the other West options listed and in a better place today than only the Knicks, but the Lakers know how to get back, and fast.

2. “Who else would you like on the team? We’ll still have spending power in the future. A big free-agent hit this summer — you — plus a big free-agent hit next summer. Oh, and any thoughts on the coach?”

3. It’s L.A. If Melo is leaving New York, no other place gives him a better platform for marketing opportunities or entertainment connections for his wife. The butler won’t have to shovel snow in the winter, unless it’s at the weekend-getaway mountain retreat. And don’t worry about the traffic. Get a place near Kobe in Orange County and share the chopper ride to downtown.
Scott Howard-Cooper

NEW YORK

1. If we could have soundtracks for blog posts, you’d hear the bass line from the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” playing right now. The Knicks can give Melo more than $129 million over five years. The most any other team can give him is about $96 million over four. And since he’ll be 34 years old when that fifth year comes around, having $29 million more guaranteed would be a nice thing. Little Kiyan needs a new pair of shoes.

2. The 2014-15 season could be a little rough, but the Knicks can bring in another good player or two next summer, when both Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani come off the books. Of course, if they sign Melo for the max now, the Knicks might not have enough cap space to sign a Kevin Love or a LaMarcus Aldridge to their own max deal next year (with Anthony, Jose Calderon and J.R. Smith taking up about 60 percent of the cap). But hey, read No. 1 again.

3. A happy wife is a happy life. Also, New York has the best pizza, bagels and Chinese food. Also, see No. 1.
John Schuhmann

Morning Shootaround — July 4



VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Mavs yesterday

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Reports: James’ agent meets with other teams | Reports: Anthony promised max offers from Lakers, Knicks | Reports: Riley, Heat interested in Pau, others | Report: Bosh next on Rockets’ wish list | Report: Hawks make early pitch to Deng

No. 1: Report: Finalists could emerge to interview James; Aldridge: Multiple teams already met with LeBron’s reps — Two of the biggest fish left in the NBA free agency pond — LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony — are starting to get their moment in the sun. For James, it seems he and his agent are trying to turn the heat up on Miami boss Pat Riley. Our David Aldridge reports that James’ agent met with at least four teams last week not named the Miami Heat. That news was originally broken by ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski similarly reports that if Riley can’t bring a strong cast into Miami soon, there may be final interviews with potential non-Heat suitors for LeBron next week. Here’s more from Wojnarowski on that story:

After conducting meetings with three NBA teams interested in pursuing free-agent star LeBron James, his agent suggested to owners and executives present that a failure of Miami president Pat Riley to rapidly recruit a strong supporting cast could bring finalists back to meet with James himself next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Rich Paul, the agent for James, invited three teams – Cleveland, Dallas and Phoenix – to the offices of his Klutch Sports headquarters to listen to pitches.

The meetings took place on Wednesday and Thursday, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Some executives believe there’s an opportunity because of a disconnect between James and his teammates, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Another executive attending the meeting flatly said, “I think it’s a smokescreen.”

James has maintained a desire to take a full max contract with a starting salary of $20.7 million, sources said. Wade and Bosh are still reluctant to take severe cuts in their contracts, sources told Yahoo Sports, creating a financial disconnect among the three.

“There’s clearly a breakdown in communication between LeBron and [Wade and Bosh],” one executive who participated in the meetings over the past two days told Yahoo Sports. “[James is] giving Riley time to go get players for them but if that doesn’t happen in the next few days … LeBron seems ready to explore the market.”

And here’s Aldridge on how the move by LeBron’s agent is affecting the other moves in free agency:

Where the information came from is not the issue. The message is. And it is clear to anyone who’s been paying attention: Riles, you’re really on the clock.

For weeks, the operating principle throughout the league was that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were acting in concert. Perhaps not literally, but certainly, each had an idea of what the other was planning to do. Why would Wade walk away from a guaranteed $41.5 million over the next couple of years if he didn’t know James was returning to Miami? Why would Bosh indicate a willingness to take a pay cut if he wasn’t certain he’d be playing with the other SuperFriends for the next few seasons?

Now, suddenly, we are told that Wade and Bosh have no idea what James is going to do, and that Paul is lining up alternatives for his client. Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that three finalists could be brought back to Cleveland, where Paul met in person with the Cavs, Mavericks and Suns this week, early next week. Nowhere, now, is there reassuring talk that James will return to the Heat.

That will surely get Riles’ attention.

Miami’s hopes of adding a centerpiece “Big Fourth” free agent were always iffy, but as free agency has begun this week, the Heat have had to watch the likes of Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry go elsewhere, in part, because Miami just couldn’t commit enough money to guys looking for their big career payday.

With Miami locked in below $10 million in cap room, it couldn’t make a realistic pitch to Gortat, who took $12 million a year from Washington to stay with the Wizards, or to Lowry, who took the same $12 million a year to stay in Toronto with the Raptors. And with other free agents that could help like Trevor Ariza also looking for big raises, the Heat will continue to be strapped to find an accomplished veteran to take their offers, whatever they may be.

So Miami is concentrating on getting commitments from shooters like Anthony Morrow and Marvin Williams. But they’re not going to come cheap, either, no matter their desire to play for a contender (assuming the Big Three re-sign there). And Riles has to find players as he cocks an ear to the Midwest, and a city he thought his superstar player had left in mind and body, but which is still there, likely a stalking horse, to be sure, but one that must be taken seriously, its revenge/reunion fantasies still intact and getting oxygen as we speak. Or, write.

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Aldridge: James’ agent turns up heat on Riley, Miami’s front office


VIDEO: LeBron James’ agent may soon be meeting with four teams not named the Miami Heat

Not so subtly all of a sudden, LeBron James is turning up the heat — no pun, not now — on Pat Riley to deliver.

James’ camp has maintained military-like silence on his intentions and plans for free agency for a year, with the three-time MVP deflecting questions all season and during the playoffs about how he’d decide what to do. And then, suddenly, there was a story on ESPN Thursday night that James’s agent, Rich Paul, had held meetings this week with teams that are not the Miami Heat — Cleveland, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix, a list confirmed by sources. (Those are in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference. You have to spell everything out these days, when NBA Nation is so on edge.)

Then, ESPN reported late Thursday that the Lakers would meet with Paul in Cleveland over the 4th of July Weekend.

Where the information came from is not the issue. The message is. And it is clear to anyone who’s been paying attention: Riles, you’re really on the clock.

For weeks, the operating principle throughout the league was that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were acting in concert. Perhaps not literally, but certainly, each had an idea of what the other was planning to do. Why would Wade walk away from a guaranteed $41.5 million over the next couple of years if he didn’t know James was returning to Miami? Why would Bosh indicate a willingness to take a pay cut if he wasn’t certain he’d be playing with the other SuperFriends for the next few seasons?

Now, suddenly, we are told that Wade and Bosh have no idea what James is going to do, and that Paul is lining up alternatives for his client. Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that three finalists could be brought back to Cleveland, where Paul met in person with the Cavs, Mavericks and Suns this week, early next week. Nowhere, now, is there reassuring talk that James will return to the Heat.

That will surely get Riles’s attention.

Even as those teams aren’t at all sure James would actually walk from his team for a second time — “I don’t think we’re high on their list,” an official with knowledge of the discussions said Thursday — they, like everyone else in the league, has to at least entertain the possibility of the idea now. And that will further delay a league already in limbo waiting for Carmelo Anthony to make his own, individual decision.

Anthony finished his tour on Thursday in Los Angeles, meeting with the Lakers and Knicks, after starting the week in Chicago and then going to Texas for meetings with the Rockets and Mavericks. While Houston is still centered and all in on its pursuit of Anthony, Dallas indicated what it thought of its chances for ‘Melo by quickly wrapping up a deal with franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki for three years and $30 million. The Mavs are, if not officially, out of the ‘Melo Stakes in reality.

Indirectly, Anthony’s decision impacts another significant free agent — Pau Gasol, who was scheduled to meet with Riley in Los Angeles. The Lakers’ hopes of keeping Gasol are centered on first getting Anthony, who would then, hopefully, entice Gasol to stay in L.A. rather than follow Riley back to South Beach, or to San Antonio or Oklahoma City, both of which harbor strong and real hopes they can get Gasol to take a huge pay cut to play for a contender.

Oklahoma City, according to a source, hopes that a three-year deal with its mid-level exception can do the trick with Gasol, even as it understands his agent, Arn Tellem, will surely be able to shake out bigger offers elsewhere.

Miami’s hopes of adding a centerpiece “Big Fourth” free agent were always iffy, but as free agency has begun this week, the Heat have had to watch the likes of Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry go elsewhere, in part, because Miami just couldn’t commit enough money to guys looking for their big career payday.

With Miami locked in below $10 million in cap room, it couldn’t make a realistic pitch to Gortat, who took $12 million a year from Washington to stay with the Wizards, or to Lowry, who took the same $12 million a year to stay in Toronto with the Raptors. And with other free agents that could help like Trevor Ariza also looking for big raises, the Heat will continue to be strapped to find an accomplished veteran to take their offers, whatever they may be.

So Miami is concentrating on getting commitments from shooters like Anthony Morrow and Marvin Williams. But they’re not going to come cheap, either, no matter their desire to play for a contender (assuming the Big Three re-sign there). And Riles has to find players as he cocks an ear to the Midwest, and a city he thought his superstar player had left in mind and body, but which is still there, likely a stalking horse, to be sure, but one that must be taken seriously, its revenge/reunion fantasies still intact and getting oxygen as we speak. Or, write.

No surprise, Dirk agrees with Dallas


VIDEO: Nowitzki stays in Dallas

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The most predictable deal of the offseason has come through: Dirk Nowitzki will re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year deal in the $30-million range.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein was first to report the new pact, which guarantees Nowitzki a 17th and 18th season, and gives him a player option on the third year.

Whether the timing suggests the Mavericks are out of luck in recruiting Carmelo Anthony to Dallas is unclear, although the expectation around the league is that Anthony will return to the New York Knicks on a max deal.

If Anthony doesn’t work out, Dallas has had strong interest in spending its sizable cap space on small forward Luol Deng, and also has interest in Rockets small forward and restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. Houston has maintained it will match any offer sheet made to Parsons, although that could change if they wind up landing Anthony.

Anthony met with both the Rockets and Mavericks on Wednesday.

Nowitzki, 36, made $22.7 million last season and averaged a team-high 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. With Nowitzki fully recovered from knee surgery that forced him out of the early portion of the 2012-13 season, Dallas, with Monta Ellis in the fold, produced one of the most efficient offenses in the league.

Defense was the Mavs’ Achilles heal, and they took steps to address that shortcoming by re-acquiring championship center Tyson Chandler in a deal with the Knicks. The Mavs’ front office also believes Chandler could help them land Anthony.

Nowitzki vowed to take a significant pay cut and came through as expected, accepting a deal that virtually appears to mirror the three-year, $30 million deal Spurs forward Tim Duncan accepted two summers ago.

According to Stein, Nowitzki will keep his no-trade clause. The player option after two seasons when he’ll turn 38 is interesting, allowing Nowitzki a final chance to explore the league’s power structure if the Mavs have not made it back to contender status in the Western Conference.

Report: Tyson Chandler back to Dallas?

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Mark Cuban and Phil Jackson have enjoyed exchanging verbal barbs through the media as Western Conference rivals over the years. Who would have figured the two would come together to consummate Jackson’s first major move as president of the New York Knicks?

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein was first to report that the Knicks will send center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, reserve shooting guard Wayne Ellington and 2013 first-round draft pick, speedy point guard Shane Larkin.

Jackson is attempting to clear out salary and create cap space in attempt to keep star forward Carmelo Anthony, set to become a free agent on July 1, from leaving town, while seeking the flexibility needed to begin a true roster overhaul. Chandler was a significant piece to Dallas’ 2011 championship. A favorite of Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler was not re-signed by the Mavs following the 2011 lockout and ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement as Cuban opted to break up an aging title team. Chandler instead joined the Knicks on a four-year, $60 million contract.

Chandler played in just 55 games last season due to injuries and averaged 8.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. The Mavs’ ability to take Felton off Jackson’s hands is the key to returning Chandler to Dallas, where he played only the 2010-11 season. Felton, who had a rocky tenure in New York, is owed $3.8 million this season and has a $3.95 million player option for the 2015-16 season.

Morning Shootaround — June 23


VIDEO: Knicks.com takes a look back at Carmelo Anthony’s 2013-14 season

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Thibodeau spearheading Bulls’ Anthony push | Report: Gay opts in with Kings | Report: Mavs to pursue Lakers’ Gasol, Wizards’ Gortat | Impossible choice now for ‘Melo | Report: Celts to view Embiid’s medical records

No. 1: Report: Thibodeau spearheading Bulls’ push for Anthony — Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose once famously said he doesn’t recruit players to join him in the Windy City. That policy may not apply to Rose’s coach, Tom Thibodeau. According to the Chicago Sun-TimesJoe Cowley, Thibodeau is doing a lot of research on Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony, who recently announced he’ll be in this summer’s free-agency pool:

The Bulls’ push to acquire New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is heating up heading into NBA draft week, and perhaps no one wants his services more than coach Tom Thibodeau.

According to one of Anthony’s former coaches, Thibodeau has reached out to him and to several other coaches who have worked with Anthony with numerous calls.

‘‘I even told Tom that there may be days he will want to blow his own head off when it comes to Melo’s defense, but he keeps saying he knows he can make it work,’’ the coach said. ‘‘It’s not that Carmelo can’t play defense, it’s just how often. And he knows every trick in the book on getting around that.’’

That the Bulls are in full-court-press mode on Anthony comes as no surprise, considering center Joakim Noah courted him during All-Star weekend in February and continued the recruitment throughout the second half of the season.

And it would seem Noah isn’t alone. Point guard Derrick Rose reportedly has gotten involved, too, and Thibodeau has used back channels to let Anthony know his addition could mean big things for everyone involved.

‘‘There’s no question [the Bulls] would be better with [Anthony], with or without his defensive inconsistencies,’’ the coach said. ‘‘As I told Tom: ‘You’re in the East, Tom. Remember, you’re in the East.’ “

The question, though, is how does a deal for Anthony get done? Multiple media outlets have reported a sign-and-trade that includes the expiring contract of forward Carlos Boozer is the favored route, especially with the Knicks preparing for Anthony to announce Monday that he will opt out of his current deal.

Such a scenario likely would involve the Bulls sending at least one of their first-round picks — No. 16 or No. 19 — to the Knicks, who are in rebuilding mode and need to start with a point guard.

There are also reports the Bulls might be willing to deal another draft pick in pursuit of Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, which means they’re serious about pursuing a championship now.

The Bulls’ offseason aggressiveness isn’t shocking to anyone around the league. At the NBA Finals last week, several sources indicated general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson were ‘‘looking to exhaust as many assets as it will take’’ to make the Bulls a contender.

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Report: Knicks’ Anthony will opt-out, become free agent July 1


VIDEO: Anthony to Opt Out

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — So much for Carmelo Anthony‘s decision.

The New York Knicks’ superstar will indeed opt-out of the final year of his deal and become a free agent July 1, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Anthony’s decision to test the free agent waters could be the trigger to a wild summer that sees several other stars dive into the free agent mix, including Miami Heat stars LeBron James, Chris Bosh and even Dwyane Wade.

Anthony has apparently bypassed the splashy news conference for a much more subtle approach to his announcement, according to Chris Herring‘s report in the Journal:

Anthony submitted a formal letter this weekend, stating he intends to exercise the early-termination clause in his deal, forgoing the one year and $23.5 million left on his contract, according to the person. In doing so, the 30-year-old star forward becomes the biggest name to join this summer’s free-agent market — for now, at least.

This doesn’t mean Anthony won’t return to the Knicks. He could still re-sign with them, and is eligible for a deal of up to five years and $129 million if the team offers that much. But the likelihood of him remaining with the Knicks seems less likely by the day.

Anthony instantly becomes the object of desire for several teams looking for that one superstar piece to take them to the next level, including the Heat, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks, for starters.

Rumors of Anthony joining James, Bosh and Wade in in Miami — a “pipe dream,” as Heat boss Pat Riley phrased it last week, that would require the Heat stars to opt-out of their deals and all of them to sacrifice salary to play together as a “Big 4″ — cranked up during the Heat’s Finals run.

The Chicago Bulls, however, are actually considered the favorite to land Anthony on the open market, pairing him with former MVP Derrick Rose and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah under Tom Thibodeau on a team poised to challenge the Heat and Pacers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Knicks, with Phil Jackson leading the organization’s rebuilding effort and Derek Fisher taking over as head coach, can still offer more money than any other team. But it’s unclear whether they are either interested or prepared to offer Anthony that max deal only they can.

Anthony’s decision comes ahead of the June 29 deadline James has for his decision to either opt-in with the Heat or opt-out and join his good friend and teammate on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team in this summer’s free agent extravaganza.

With Anthony already in the mix, the addition of James in the free agent pool would turn this summer upside down ahead of the summer of 2015, when a bevy of superstars (James and Anthony included) were expected to flood the market. The free agent class of 2015 could evaporate if the aforementioned stars opt-out this summer and Minnesota Timberwolves’ All-Star Kevin Love is traded before next summer arrives.

Anthony’s reported decision isn’t a stunner. He talked during the preseason about wanting to test free agency this summer and held true to his word. The Knicks’ dismal season and the hiring of Jackson and later Fisher had no effect on his choice. The desire to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career clearly presented itself as a more enticing option than dealing with whatever patchwork plan Jackson had in mind.

Now the real fun begins, as the clock ticks not only on the decision of James but also all of the potential trades that could go down between now and Draft night Thursday in New York.

We don’t have to wait until the start of free agency July 1 for the drama to get stirred up. It’ll happen well in advance of the start of free agency now that Anthony’s decision has been made.

Morning Shootaround: June 16


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played June 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Bulls looking to make blockbuster move | Report: Sixers taking extended look at Wiggins | Orlando a big fan of Smart’s intangibles | Report: Heat’s Allen mulling retirement | Nowitzki makes pitch for Anthony

No. 1: Report: Bulls looking to make deals to upgrade lineup — If the just-completed 2014 Finals have taught other NBA teams anything, it’s that building a team like the Spurs — one replete with superstars and solid, dependable depth — is the way to go in today’s NBA. The Chicago Bulls have apparently taken notice and are willing to part with just about anyone not named Derrick Rose, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

According to several NBA sources Sunday, the Bulls have been actively looking to improve the starting lineup at almost any cost, with Derrick Rose the only untouchable player — and not by choice.

“They are looking to exhaust as many assets as it will take,’’ one source said of general manager Gar Forman and head of basketball operations John Paxson.

But the source said it was “doubtful” whether that meant the long-rumored departure of coach Tom Thibodeau could come into play.

Carmelo Anthony is still Plan A as the Bulls and the rest of the NBA await to see if the Knicks forward will opt out of his contract. But the Bulls are more active in their pursuit of Kevin Love than initially rumored. Also, don’t rule out LeBron James coming into play again if the four-time MVP opts out of his deal.

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Morning Shootaround — June 11


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played June 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Leonard gives Spurs a preview of their future | Hollins still hoping for coaching gig | Report: Lakers meet with Scott again | Nowitzki: Chances ‘slim to none’ he’ll leave Mavs | Battier a master at stealing play-calls

No. 1: Leonard gives Spurs an early look at their future Through the first two games of The Finals, Kawhi Leonard was a virtual non-factor as he had just 18 points in the series and was being outplayed by his matchup, LeBron James. The Heat’s star had another solid game (22 points), but Leonard broke out of his funk in a major way in Game 3. He poured in 29 points and powered San Antonio’s rout and as our Steve Aschburner notes, gave the Spurs a good look at what the team might look like when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker hang it up:

Kawhi Leonard, the presumptive future of the San Antonio Spurs, was sorely needed in the present, lest these 2014 Finals slip too quickly into his and the Spurs’ past.

So the future was now in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, Leonard scoring a career-high 29 points and shadowing LeBron James into the sort of mere-mortal game San Antonio will need if it hopes to do this year what it couldn’t do last.

Leonard was jerked out of his foul-plagued funk in the two games in San Antonio by some pep talks and tough love from the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan as if he was, oh, Roy Hibbert. And he responded, mostly by ignoring the circumstances of these games and playing as if this were January.

Offensively, Leonard attacked Miami from the start, hitting all five of his shots in the first quarter and scoring 16 of the Spurs’ 41 points that period. Defensively the 6-foot-7 forward with the pterodactyl wingspan and Wolverine hands helped limit James to 22 points, just eight over the final three quarters when San Antonio’s fat lead cried out for something special after halftime.

Leonard had been outscored 60-18 by James in Games 1 and 2 combined, but he had the edge this time by seven. By relaxing, by seizing the moment while forgetting how momentous it was, Leonard sparked the Spurs to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and stuck Miami with its first home loss of the postseason (8-1).

“That’s how he’s played all year long,” Popovich said. “He’s got to be one of our better players on the court or we’re not good enough. That’s just the way it is.

“You know, it’s the NBA Finals. You can’t just be mediocre out there if you want to win a game, and everybody’s got to play well, and he did that.”

Popovich acknowledged that he and others within the team had talked with Leonard in the two off-days before Game 3, though he declined to share. “Family business,” the Spurs coach called it.

Though the specifics were cloaked, the message seemed obvious.

“We just wanted him to be who he’s been the whole year, in the regular season and in the playoffs,” Popovich said. He said Leonard “overreacted” to the fouls called against him and “became very cautious.” “And he doesn’t play like that,” the coach added.

Said Duncan: “We’ve been on him about continuing to play.”

Leonard’s 29 points weren’t just his NBA career high – they apparently were the most he’d scored since high school. He had 26 for San Diego State as a freshman in a game at Wyoming, Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reported, and 26 in an April game against Memphis this season. He’s the first player to set his personal scoring high in a Finals game since the Nets’ Kenyon Martin went for 35 in Game 4 against the Lakers in 2002.


VIDEO: Relive the best moments from Kawhi Leonard’s monster Game 3 (more…)

Morning Shootaround — May 24



VIDEO: Get geared up for Game 3 of the Heat-Pacers series


VIDEO: Get geared up for Game 3 of the Thunder-Spurs series

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Yao, Hill want to buy Clips | Scott says he’d be ‘perfect’ fit as Lakers coach | Cuban pulling for Spurs | Gibson set to become Bulls’ starter? | Noel says he could have played sooner

No. 1: Report: Hill, Yao want to buy Clippers — As of today, Donald Sterling remains the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. But as the NBA moves closer and closer to June 3, when fellow owners can officially vote to oust him as owner, the chatter about who might own the team next continues strong. The latest talk, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, is that former NBA All-Star Yao Ming and Grant Hill are both interested in buying the team:

Sources told ESPN.com on Friday that Grant Hill and Yao Ming are working separately to line up investors to lodge bids for the Clippers when the team is ultimately made available.

Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife, Shelly, to negotiate a sale of the Clippers, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com on Friday.

Hill is just completing his first year in retirement after a 19-season career that ended with the Clippers after seven All-Star berths. Sources say Hill has made it known within league circles that he is in the process of putting a consortium together.

Sources say that Yao, meanwhile, also plans to pursue the Clippers hard with a group of Chinese investors. The former Houston Rockets All-Star center owns the Shanghai Sharks in his native country and has maintained close ties to the NBA through the league’s various initiatives in Asia.

Yao was seriously interested in purchasing the Bucks, sources say, but dropped out of the bidding when outgoing Milwaukee owner Herb Kohl made keeping the team in that city mandatory for any new owner.

The number of bidders for the Clippers is expected to stray well into double digits, assuming the league can force the sale of the team, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver continues to believe.


VIDEO: GameTime provides an update on the latest news on the Clippers

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