What in the world is going on with Kawhi Leonard? For the most part, the San Antonio Spurs superstar’s situation remains the same as it did prior to midnight on July 1. A year before he can become a free agent, Leonard wants out of San Antonio and into his hometown of L.A. — to the point that some NBA executives told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that they believe the two-time Defensive Player would sit out yet another season to force such a trade. Leonard is holding the NBA summer hostage, as Kyrie Irving did a year ago, and San Antonio doesn’t want to be stuck holding the same package Boston dumped at Cleveland’s door. As one Western Conference executive told The Undefeated, “It’s like the entire league is just waiting on the shoe to drop.” The Spurs, being the Spurs, have kept intentions quiet, engaging in a staring contest instead. But recent reports might force one side to blink quicker than San Antonio might want you to think: “You gotta expect that he’s gone sooner than later. You don’t want that dragging into the season. And for someone like Kawhi, you absolutely have to get something in return.” Wanting to maximize that return and perhaps even holding out hope coach Gregg Popovich can mend Leonard’s broken fence as he did with LaMarcus Aldridge’s, the Spurs have resisted initial offers for the former Finals MVP. San Antonio might want teams to believe they are willing to keep Leonard on the roster, but should he sit or begrudgingly stay, the closer we get to the trade deadline, the less likely suitors will be to part with assets, knowing he could be had for cap space in a few short months. Even now, knowing Leonard can leave for nothing in unrestricted free agency next summer, the three most capable suitors have yet to put their best offer on the table. According to reports, the L.A. Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics have not included Brandon Ingram, Markelle Fultz or Jaylen Brown in their respective proposals. But the Spurs want even more, so everyone is locking eyes again. LeBron James urging the Lakers to pull the trigger, more legitimate suitors emerging for his services and/or Kawhi demonstrating a willingness to re-sign outside of L.A. LeBron reportedly hasn’t applied pressure on Magic Johnson to go all in for Leonard yet, but those other two options might soon be on the negotiating table, if they aren’t there already, according to reports: “The Lakers are not Kawhi’s preferred destination anymore. He wants to go to the Clippers. Because he doesn’t want to go and be second fiddle to LeBron. That’s what I was told. I was told by somebody that would know. So right now the Clippers are where he wants to go. But I’m also told — I talked to people within the Spurs organization — and they’re like, ‘Yeah he wants to go to the Clippers, but their assets are s*** at this point.’” Those “s***” assets: Tobias Harris, rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, and a future first-round pick, none of which compares to the best offer the Lakers, Sixers or Celtics could put forth. We should note that the Spurs don’t need Leonard’s permission to trade him anywhere. He can certainly steer negotiations in his direction by refusing to play for teams or insisting he’ll leave in 2019, but he does not have a no-trade clause and cannot dictate his future until next summer. So, we’re left to wonder whether Haynes meant Leonard would consider re-signing in Philadelphia. The Raptors and Celtics won’t mortgage futures for the slim chance they can change Leonard’s mind by fielding a title contender around. L.A. or Philadelphia it would be, then.
After enrolling at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China in 2011, former NBA star Yao Ming finally graduated this weekend with an economics degree. Ming, 37, took the podium in front of his graduating peers at their ceremony and thanked his parents, discussed his math class struggles, and offered words of wisdom – he added that he almost dropped out on a number of occasions. Yao said: “Let me quote a famous conversation that happened on a basketball court 11 years ago, ‘This is going to be your league in a little while’. Trust me, when a man spends 7 years in university to graduate at age 38, he knows what he’s talking about! … At a certain stage in the future, you should try to combine your future with the future of the society, because that’s how you can find larger space for yourself to explore”. Besides studying at the Antai College of Economics and Management, Yao is said to be active in campus culture. The 7-foot-6 former Houston Rocket played eight years in the NBA, but retired at the young age of 31 due to a series of injuries in June 2011. He was inducted in the NBA Hall of Fame in 2016.
Cameroonian free agent forward Luc Mbah a Moute has agreed to a one-year NBA deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, pushing the Houston Rockets to pursue Carmelo Anthony. The Rockets, led by NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring leader James Harden and backcourt partner Chris Paul, advanced within one win of the NBA Finals last season before losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. Now they are faced with the loss of two forwards in Mbah a Moute, who came to the Rockets last year from the Clippers and will return for $4.3 million, and Trevor Ariza, who signed a one-year deal with Phoenix last week worth $15 million. The moves add to uncertainty for the Rockets around Swiss free agent center Clint Capela, who has not agreed to a new deal. Facing a major frontline talent loss, the Rockets are hoping to add four-time US Olympian Carmelo Anthony, who is expected to have his contract bought out by Oklahoma City and become a free agent before the end of next week. Mbah a Moute, who had a one-year deal worth $2.1 million last season, turns 32 in September. He averaged 7.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals a game last season for the Rockets in his 10th NBA campaign.