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#pounditSunday, September 19, 2021

Basketball

Look: Kawhi Leonard has awesome hoodie of his facial dunk on Maxi Kleber

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard is coming through in one of the coldest fits of the offseason.

The LA Clippers star showed up to Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony of the team’s new arena wearing an awesome hoodie. On the front, the hoodie read “Clip Gang Or Don’t Bang” in Clippers colors. On the back of the hoodie was the famous shot of Leonard and teammates Paul George and Marcus Morris flexing after Leonard’s poster dunk on Dallas Mavericks big Maxi Kleber.

The dunk, which occurred during the Clippers’ first-round series against the Mavericks in May, was one of the most memorable moments of the playoffs. The Clippers would go on to win that series and eventually make their first conference finals appearance in franchise history, despite Leonard going down with an ACL injury in the second round.

The two-time NBA champion Leonard did seem a bit aloof at times during Friday’s ceremony in which the Clippers unveiled the new $1.8 billion Intuit Dome. But at least he looked darn good while doing it.

Report: 76ers only willing to trade Ben Simmons for specific players

Ben Simmons

If the Philadelphia 76ers are determined to trade Ben Simmons this offseason, they are doing a fairly good job of hiding it.

Simmons has made it clear that he wants out of Philly, but the 76ers are holding firm with their high asking price for the former first overall pick. Not only that, but Tom Moore of The Intelligencer reports that they would want one of roughly a handful of specific players in a potential trade involving Simmons. If they can’t get any of those players, they are fine with Simmons remaining on their roster.

Moore also notes that the Sixers do not want to trade for draft picks and then try to flip those picks for one or more players. Of course, a trade involving more than two teams would be a work-around to that.

It has been widely reported that Damian Lillard would be the ultimate prize for Daryl Morey and the 76ers, but the Portland Trail Blazers star is not currently on the trade block.

Simmons is not planning to show up to training camp even though he could be fined more than $1 million for skipping. All indications are that he has no intention of helping the Sixers trade him, but he does not plan to play for them again.

Jewell Loyd ties WNBA record with 22-point quarter

Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd tied a WNBA record on Friday, scoring 22 points in the first quarter.

The high-scoring outburst matched the record set by Diana Taurasi in 2006 and later tied by Brittney Sykes in 2019. It was also the most points ever scored in the first quarter of a WNBA game.

Loyd got hot immediately after tip-off and reached double-digits within the first two minutes of the contest.

Five and a half minutes into the game, Loyd hit a three-pointer to give her 22. However, she didn’t get another bucket over the remaining 4:21 of the opening quarter. Her 28 points by halftime were the most by a WNBA player this season, and the team’s 61 total points at the half tied a franchise record.

Loyd finished the game with a career-high 37 points and helped give the Storm a 94-85 victory over the Phoenix Mercury, clinching a first-round playoff bye.

“Coming into the game, I was trying not to think,” Loyd said, via the Seattle Times. “I was zoning out during the pregame talks and just trying to let my mind be clear. My teammates were hyping me up. I like when they’re happy so I was just trying to get us going early and that helped us get a win.”

In 31 games this season, Loyd averages 31 minutes per contest and 17.9 points per game.

Rockets unlikely to find trade partner for John Wall?

John Wall

John Wall and the Houston Rockets would like to go their separate ways, but unfortunately it may not be quite that simple.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this week on “SportsCenter” that Houston will likely be unable to find a trade partner for the former All-NBA guard.

“I think trading John Wall, with two years left and over $90 million, is almost impossible unless the Rockets all of a sudden decide that they’re willing to attach a number of first round picks,” he said. “I don’t see that scenario. I think he’s going to be in Houston a while unless he’s willing to take money and agree to a buyout, but he doesn’t want to do that right now.”

Wojnarowski’s comments come amid a report that Wall and the Rockets will work together to try to find a new home for the five-time All-Star. Wall had been one of the biggest negative assets in the league coming off his lengthy Achilles injury absence but rebuilt his value somewhat with 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game last season for Houston.

It would not make sense for the Rockets, a rebuilding team, to surrender valuable assets like first-rounders just to dump Wall’s contract. Meanwhile, a buyout of that magnitude is difficult but not unprecedented. That may be the 31-year-old Wall’s best option if he really wants to leave the Rockets.

H/T NBA Reddit

Bulls not in danger of losing Zach LaVine?

Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine is already the longest-tenured player on the Chicago Bulls, and he may be sticking around for some time longer.

David Kaplan of ESPN Chicago said this week that LaVine has indicated he wants to stay with the Bulls, despite his contract being up after next season.

“He has told people that I know, ‘Hey man, if they want me here, I’m not going anywhere,'” said Kaplan. “‘I’m building this thing. I’m the first guy in the door. I wanna be part of this.’”

Kaplan’s co-host, Jonathan Hood, added that LaVine was out recruiting for Chicago in free agency this offseason, as the team signed the likes of Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso.

The All-Star LaVine, who is entering his fifth season with the Bulls, is one of the NBA’s most dynamic guards. He has become a legitimate 25-5-5 guy and finished seventh in the league last year in scoring, ahead of players like Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum.

But instead of extending LaVine this summer, Chicago moved to upgrade the roster around him instead. Now the 26-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason and some top teams already have interest. Still, as long as the Bulls are willing to do what it takes to keep him, which will likely mean offering a max contract, LaVine sounds like he is in Chicago to stay.

H/T NBA Reddit

Kyrie Irving calls out reporter over retirement claim

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving thinks something smells fishy with the latest report about him.

The Brooklyn Nets guard called out FS1’s Nick Wright in a tweet this week. Wright reported that Irving would retire if the Nets decided to trade him, citing what Irving’s agents had allegedly been asserting.

Irving fired back by calling Wright “a puppet.”

Wright responded by saying that the ire should be directed towards Irving’s own representation instead of towards him.

The trade rumors about the seven-time All-Star Irving seemed to come out of the blue. But Wright’s report at least sounded plausible given Irving’s skillset overlap with Kevin Durant and James Harden as well as Irving’s noted openness to retiring from the game early.

That said, we know that Irving has a major problem with the media, which manifested itself multiple times last season. This latest back-and-forth with Wright is just another example of that.

Shaq takes hilarious shot at Nets

Shaquille O'Neal

The Brooklyn Nets are the target of a lot of ire these days, but Shaquille O’Neal is clowning them for something that happened back when they still played in New Jersey.

The retired center great appeared this week on “Scoop B Radio” with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. During his appearance, O’Neal roasted the Nets for putting up minimal resistance against him in the 2002 NBA Finals.

“It was boring,” said O’Neal of facing the Nets in the Finals that year. “I actually got mad when we were playing in Jersey. You think [then-Nets center] Todd MacCulloch is going to stop me at the crib in Jersey in front of my grandma and grandpa? S–t! No. Stop it.”

O’Neal, who was born in Newark, N.J., played for the Los Angeles Lakers at the time. Their Finals series against the Nets was one of the most lopsided in NBA history. The Lakers won it in a sweep, and O’Neal put up some all-time numbers of 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. The Diesel absolutely ragdolled the Nets’ center rotation of MacCulloch, Jason Collins, and Aaron Williams, notably fouling out Williams in just seven minutes of play during Game 3.

Besides the relocation, the Nets obviously look a lot different nowadays. But O’Neal just can’t stop ridiculing their players, be they past or present.

Marc Gasol could end up signing with Warriors?

Marc Gasol

Just when you thought that we had seen the last of Marc Gasol in the NBA, he could be dropping back down from the rafters like Sting.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Gasol is a name to watch for the Golden State Warriors’ final roster spot. Slater says the ex-Defensive Player of the Year almost signed with the Warriors last summer and very well might have had Klay Thompson not ruptured his Achilles and effectively ended the the team’s chances at competing for the 2021 title.

Gasol received a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this month but secured his release from the Grizzlies shortly after. The expectation was that Gasol would sign with a team in his native Spain, where he has been spending this offseason with family. But the 36-year-old ultimately remains undecided on his future.

Golden State’s current starting center, James Wiseman, is a decent piece but does not fit well with the team’s core of 30-somethings. Gasol, on the other hand, would fit well with his ability to stretch the floor, move the ball, and play plus team defense.

Slater adds that Gasol could possibly join the Warriors midseason. The team would be armed with the taxpayer midlevel exception to offer. Golden State also seems set on complementing rather than shaking up their current core.

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via cc-by-sa 4.0

Michael Porter Jr. explains why he is happy the Clippers passed on drafting him

Michael Porter Jr

The LA Clippers passing on Michael Porter Jr. in 2018 is one of the greatest whiffs in recent draft history. But Porter himself thinks that it all worked out for the best.

The Denver Nuggets forward appeared this week on JJ Redick’s “Old Man and the Three” podcast. Porter explained during the episode why he was happy that he did not end up on the Clippers.

“To be honest with you, it might have been a God thing,” said Porter. “You know how crazy L.A. is, who knows? Living in L.A. as a rookie doing just strictly rehab without even playing? I might have gotten into some stuff. So I am where I’m supposed to be.”

The 23-year-old Porter also said he has no bitterness towards any team.

Heading into the 2018 draft, Porter had major injury concerns with his back that caused him to slide from the potential No. 1 overall pick to the back of the lottery. The Clippers had picks No. 12 and 13 that year, choosing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson over Porter. Gilgeous-Alexander was an excellent selection who ended up being a centerpiece of the team’s blockbuster trade for Paul George the next summer. But Robinson lasted just three seasons in the league, averaging 4.5 points per game (though the Clippers acquired a quality veteran in Marcus Morris Sr. by trading him).

As for Porter, he went to the Nuggets with the very next pick at No. 14. He ended up missing his entire rookie season after undergoing a second back surgery. But Porter has since blossomed into a strong all-around forward, averaging 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds last season on a scorching 44.5 percent from three.

Porter did seem to have some ill will towards the Clippers when the Nuggets faced them in the 2020 postseason. But he got his revenge on them as Denver won that series, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to combust the Clippers. Thus, any hard feelings appear to be gone now.

Former All-Star defends Ben Simmons over shooting struggles

Ben Simmons

One of the purest jump shooters of the last decade is offering an interesting take on Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons.

Speaking this week with TMZ Sports, former NBA swingman Joe Johnson, a seven-time career All-Star, pushed back on the notion of Simmons’ jumper being broken.

“I honestly don’t think nothing’s wrong with it,” said Johnson. “Obviously, you see him playing pickup basketball shooting jumpers, fadeaways, threes. So we all know it’s there.

“He just has to take that same confidence that he has in pickup and translate it to an NBA game,” Johnson added. “That’s it. You’re gonna miss and make shots. You can’t worry about the misses. He’s just got to continue to take them. It’s a psyche thing. It’s confidence. When he step on the court, he has to have the utmost confidence because talent-wise, it’s there.”

Johnson, who played 18 years in the league, was a solid three-point shooter. He hit 37.1 percent for his career from deep, topping 40 percent in multiple seasons, and even competed in the Three Point Contest a couple of times.

Simmons has a long way to go to get there, to say the absolute least. He has only attempted 36 threes in his entire career, regular season and playoffs, connecting on a whopping five of them. Simmons’ extreme hesitance to even think about attempting a shot outside of the paint severely caps his team’s upside and has led to countless jokes and memes. If Johnson is right that Simmons’ problem is one with confidence, even that may be too much for Simmons to overcome entering his fifth career NBA season.