The NBA season is in the home stretch with a month and a half left until the playoffs, making each game more and more meaningful. Anthony Davis continues to singlehandedly keep the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference playoff picture, as he dropped 53 points with 18 rebounds and five blocks in Monday's win over the Phoenix Suns. We have the latest on that story and more in today's NBA News & Rumors Roundup:
76ers to pursue LeBron James this summer
One of the biggest stories of the season has been LeBron James' pending free agency this summer, and with reports that the Cavs won't "do what it takes" to re-sign him, other teams are circling in hopes they can convince him to leave Cleveland. The Philadelphia 76ers plan to be one of those teams, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
If James, who can become a free agent after this season, decides to leave the Cavaliers, he could – and should – consider the 76ers, and executives around the league believe Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo will attempt to sign James.
If LeBron is willing to consider signing with Philadelphia, they present his best chance at long-term success. The 76ers have the second-youngest roster in the league, headlined by a pair of superstars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and have enough cap space to sign him to a max contract.
James is expected to decline the $34.6 million player option on his contract for next season in order to explore free agency. A number of other teams, specifically the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers, are planning to pursue him on the open market.
He is averaging 26.6 points, 8.9 assists, and 8.3 rebounds per game this season.
Kawhi Leonard expected to return by late March
Kawhi Leonard has reportedly been medically cleared to play and is choosing to sit out, causing some friction between himself and the San Antonio Spurs, but ESPN's Michael C. Wright and Adrian Wojnarowski report that the team expects him to return by late March.
Leonard has returned to San Antonio from New York, where he spent three weeks seeking further consultation on a right quad injury that has sidelined him for most of the season, league sources said.
Leonard isn't expected to immediately start engaging in full 5-on-5 practices with his teammates, but the goal is to advance toward that level of engagement in the near future, league sources said.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said that he would be "surprised" if Leonard played again this season.
Leonard, who averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game last season, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
Knicks to buy out Joakim Noah?
The New York Knicks have placed center Joakim Noah on indefinite leave after he got into a heated exchange with head coach Jeff Hornacek earlier this month, and it appears that the only way he'll return to the team is if they make a coaching change. As such, the team is expected to buyout his contract ahead of the March 1 playoff-eligibility deadline.
However, if the Knicks don't, there could be a battle brewing between them and the Players Association, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
A fair estimate for Noah to forgo would be $5 million. That would be a little more than his take the next two seasons if he signed with another club for the veteran’s minimum, which is $2.3 million. ...
According to sources, the Players Association will intensify its interest if Thursday’s deadline passes and Noah still is on the Knicks. If Noah wants back, it could get ugly. Sources who have spoken to the Knicks brass say Noah’s camp has been oddly quiet.
Noah, who still has nearly $38 million left on his contract, is averaging 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in 5.7 minutes in seven games this season.
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