The NBA season will resume on Thursday night after the All-Star break with six games, headlined by the Cleveland Cavaliers hosting the Washington Wizards and Golden State Warriors hosting the Los Angeles Clippers. The San Antonio Spurs don't return to action until Friday, but they're at the forefront of the NBA world due to the ongoing drama between them and Kawhi Leonard. Here are the latest NBA news & rumors you need to know:
Kawhi Leonard cleared to play, still not playing
Leonard was expected to be ready for the start of the regular season despite dealing with a quad injury during the offseason, but his return was delayed several times. Now, he has only played in nine games this season, yett ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Leonard has been cleared to play - he simply has decided against returning.
After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he's prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.
Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the San Antonio Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said. If Leonard returns, it will be because he has decided he can manage the discomfort of the injury, according to the sources.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said that he would be "surprised" if Leonard played again this season.
"We only have X number of games left in the season, and he's still not ready to go," Popovich told reporters on Wednesday. "If by some chance he is, it's gonna be pretty late into the season, and it's going to be a pretty tough decision -- how late to bring somebody back. So that's why I'm just trying to be honest and logical. I'll be surprised if he gets back this year."
Many believe that this could be a sign of the beginning of the end of Leonard in San Antonio, who acquired him in a draft-day trade with the Indiana Pacers and saw him turn into one of the NBA's best players.
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.
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Marcus Smart nearly needed season-ending surgery
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart was cleared to practice on Wednesday after he missed 11 games due to a hand injury he suffered when he punched a picture frame at a team hotel, but Smart said the injury nearly required season-ending surgery.
“They pulled a glass piece out of the palm of my hand about that size (between two and three inches),” Smart said. “They said there were two tendons that ran along the pinkie area. The glass was sitting right in between them. They were like: ‘You should play the lotto because you missed your tendons.’ They don’t understand [how I missed them].
“I thank God for that every day. It could have been worse. I’m glad it’s not.”
Smart is averaging 10.1 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game this season.
3 teams interested in Aaron Gordon this offseason
Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon will be a restricted free agent this offseason and, after the team tried to trade him at the deadline, many feel the Magic may decide to let him walk Because of that, a number of teams plan to pursue him this summer, including the Pacers, Phoenix Suns, and Dallas Mavericks, according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.
League sources told Sporting News this week that the Suns are expected to be suitors for Gordon, who starred at Arizona for one memorable season. Phoenix has ample cap room and a roster in need of more proven players. Another team with interest in Gordon, according to sources, would be the rebuilding Mavericks, who have been eager to find a budding star to fill in alongside Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr., softening the blow of Dirk Nowitzki's retirement, which could come in just months.
The Pacers intend to investigate restricted free agents, too, hoping to add young talent to an improving roster. Still, if any team makes a formal offer, the Magic can match it.
Gordon is averaging 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this season.Back to the NBA Newsfeed