NBA Off-Season Moves: Kawhi Forces an Exit From the Spurs
Leonard Takes His Talents Begrudgingly to Toronto; Boogie Goes to the Dubs; The King Lake Show
All Eyes on Kawhi
The rocky relationship between the enigmatic Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs has finally come to end. Leonard, an NBA Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and an All-NBA First Team member was traded to the Toronto Raptors for a package including All-Star Guard DeMar DeRozan in July.
Leonard hasn’t played in a regular season game in more than a year. The Spurs’ best player since Tim Duncan suffered a serious ankle injury in the Western Conference Finals in 2017. Since that injury, it’s been a series of setbacks and controversy. During his prep for the 2018 preseason, Leonard developed right thigh tendinopathy (huh?) and took several months to get back on the floor. He played in games during December 2017, but by February Leonard was lost for the remainder of the regular season.
That’s when the Spurs-Leonard drama hit the fan. Fans, teammates and the media began speculating on a growing rift between the All-Star and the team over his injury rehab and his long-term future in San Antonio. Insults were exchanged, uncles got involved, and now he’s a former Spur.
Those Ho#s Ain’t Loyal
You have to give up quality to acquire a player like Kawhi Leonard, even if he was injured. But for the Raptors, the price may prove to be too high, especially for a player who may not play in Canada for the entire season. Toronto gave up a package centered on DeMar DeRozan, the player who led the team back to respectability. And DeRozan was not happy about the circumstances.
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
Leonard is a free agent at the end of the 2019 season and is expected to sign with one of the LA teams in the off-season. Those rumors come from league sources and people connected to the Leonard camp. DeRozan sounded off about the trade on his Instagram story.
DeMar’s full IG story. pic.twitter.com/3VVLSaPeEp
— Michael Singer (@msinger) July 18, 2018
His post read: “Told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing. … Soon you’ll understand. … Don’t disturb.”
DeRozan got love from players in the hours and days after the trade. Damian Lillard, Enes Kanter, DeMarre Carroll, and Lou Williams posted their support of DeMar across social media. Big-time sports so this kind of player movement happens. We’re unable to verify whether DeRozan was lied to by his former team. But, man when First and Ten Sports is right, we’re right. Our prediction that the Lowry-DeRozan lead Raptors would be dismantled if they lost to the Cavs hit the mark.
The King’s Move to Hollywood Is Dumb
This time there was no primetime special at a Boys & Girl club. No self-authored article in Sports Illustrated explaining why he’s coming home. In July, three-time NBA Champion LeBron James signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for more than $150 million.
His exodus from Cleveland is two-fold, what’s best for the LeBron Inc. brand and his basketball legacy. James is a mogul, who moved into acting (Trainwreck and Space Jam 2), philanthropic endeavors, and producing film and television projects. Plus, James plans to own a sports franchise when his playing days are over. The LA move makes sense in this context.
Basketball-wise, the move makes no sense. Lebron’s style of play necessitates specific types of players. He dominates the ball so much, you need ballers who can move without the ball, and are dead-eye shooters. Players who try to break you down one-on-one and need the ball in their hands to excel end up standing around like spectators.
Why did Chris Bosh and Kevin Love become glorified shooters in Miami and Cleveland? The answer is LeBron James. Why did Kyle Korver get so many fourth-quarter minutes over JR Smith or Rodney Hood for the Cavs, the answer is James.
The current Lakers including, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee don’t match up. There will be a lot of growing pains before the team is remade in the King’s image. But, the question remains–how many more years of elite play should the Lakers expect from James? Is it enough to remake your roster again? We don’t think so.
Boogie and the Champs
If you’re a member of the Golden State Warriors organization, life is good. Your team is the defending NBA champions, four members of the starting lineup are All-Stars, and the new $1 billion Chase Center in San Francisco is scheduled to open in 2019. So what do you do to improve your team in the off-season? You sign DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins one of the best big men in the NBA, to play center. Dayum.
DeMarcus Cousins has been traded for Khem Birch and picks, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespnbot) August 6, 2018
The move seems thirsty. Cousins struggles to manage his emotions and is coming off major knee surgery. Even at 100%, he does not fit in with the Warriors movement and shooting based offense. Boogie is a throwback, a back to basket player who does most of his damage in the paint. The Warriors spread the floor and don’t want any player clogging up the middle. Boogie may have extended his shooting range over the past two seasons, but he’s still inconsistent from the perimeter. Will Boogie tolerate not being the focal point of the offense, will he run the floor all the time and will he play help defense? That’s a lot of unanswered questions. Diagnosis, risky.
The Rockets are the AARP of the NBA
From the “tell me if you heard this one before department,” the Houston Rockets have signed a veteran and former All-Star to try to win the Western Conference Finals and potentially, an NBA Championship. Last season it was Chris Paul, this off-season, they’ve acquired Carmelo Anthony.
Houston will be the third team to acquire Melo since he was traded by the New York Knicks. USA Today helps sheds some light on Melo’s turbulent off-season. “Anthony cleared waivers following his release from the Atlanta Hawks, who had traded for Anthony in a three-team deal with Oklahoma City and Philadelphia. [That deal] saw the Hawks acquire a protected first-round pick while shipping G Dennis Schroder to the Thunder.
To sum up, the Rockets got an older wing player to replace the departed Trevor Ariza. They committed $90 million over the next five years to keep (C) Clint Capela, a restricted free agent. They better win soon or else the coaching staff and talent evaluators will be looking for new jobs.