Kawhi Leonard’s Injury Rehab Reportedly Straining Relationship With Spurs

There's a joke in here somewhere about Kawhi Leonard actually being made of liquid metal and incapable of human emotion, but this does bear emphasizing: this is not quite a big deal.

Not yet.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Michael C. Wright and Zach Lowe, Leonard's frustrating rehab and possible comeback from a right quadricep injury has had a “chilling impact” on the relationship between the All-Star swingman and the San Antonio Spurs. The report included words like “rift” and “distant” and “disconnected,” which has Spurs fans responding today with their own words, everything from, “Yeah, but remember LaMarcus Aldridge? to “OMFG OMFG OMFG.”

Leonard played just nine games this season before the Spurs shut him down indefinitely last week. In limited minutes, Leonard was still productive, nearly matching his career-high PER from last season and with a usage rate among the league's top 15. However, the team struggled to win just five of those games and the 26-year-old admitted to the team's brass that he didn't feel confident in his body.

“You've got to be confident in your body to go out there and play at the level he's expect to play,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told ESPN at the time. “We didn't feel he was ready. His confidence level wasn't there. So we decided to give it some more time.”

On the eve of the season, we watched as San Antonio announced Leonard would be out for the entire preseason and perhaps more, only to eventually hear Popovich admit he'd never seen anything like Leonard's injury. Then we saw Tony Parker return from a similar, though even more severe injury. Since September, there's been a weird Belichickian mystery surrounding Leonard. The Spurs haven't offered answers. Neither have some of the world's best tendon experts. General manager RC Buford has denied any rift, but he did acknowledge the entire process has been difficult for both sides.

There is no real precedent for a star player growing frustrated in the vacuum of San Antonio's safe haven. Popovich tried to sign Jason Kidd in 2003, effectively telling Tony Parker thanks, but no thanks. Parker didn't bolt. He's played his entire career with the Spurs. Popovich sent Manu Ginobili to the bench in 2007, even though Ginobili was already an All-Star. Manu embraced it. Tim Duncan took repeated lyrical undressings in practices over the years and never once did he respond with, “Pop, I'm a 15-time All-Star and five-time champ, the undisputed best power forward of all time. I'm allowed to miss one defensive assignment.” Even LaMarcus Aldridge, after asking for a trade last summer, ended up submitting to some weird Pop voodoo. The veteran is now playing perhaps the best ball of his career.

Leonard's camp has since denied the report. Leonard does hold a player option for the 2019-2020 season, which might make things interesting. Knowing the Spurs, though, they'll take Leonard to some off the radar bunker if necessary, sit him down, and not let anyone out until a resolution is found. Until then, everything surrounding one of the NBA's best players will likely remain a mystery.

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Nate Robinson Guest-Hosts; Patriots NFL Conspiracy; Scary Eagles Fans | Out of Bounds

The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles are going to Super Bowl LII. With 3x NBA Dunk Contest champion Nate Robinson filling in for Gilbert Arenas, the #OutofBounds crew discusses the Pats’ comeback against the Jaguars, a possible NFL conspiracy to get Tom Brady in the league’s big game, the Eagles’ dominant win over the Vikings and menacing Philly fans, and the chances the Eagles upset the Patriots. Plus, big weekend NBA games get the gang talking about whether the Cavs, Thunder, or Rockets can dethrone the Warriors.

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What It’s Like to Make Custom Sneakers for Kanye West, LeBron James, and Lonzo Ball

Custom sneakers have become common place these days. Everyone has them: athletes, celebrities, and artists. They're worn on NFL fields, on NBA courts, and shared across social media. To get a better scope of what it's like to make these shoes, Sole Collector's Full Size Run caught up with Mache, the custom sneaker guru to the stars.

During the episode, he talks about a pair of sneakers he gifted to Kanye West that, supposedly, Adidas didn't want him to wear in public, making custom sneakers for LeBron James and Lonzo Ball, and what it was like to make the cleats that Stefon Diggs wore when he made the legendary catch last weekend against the New Orleans Saints.

Mache also reveals a pair of “Free Meek Mill” cleats that will be worn by Jarius Wright this weekend as the Minnesota Vikings play the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

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Kyle Kuzma Insults LaMelo Ball’s Teeth in Awkward Instagram Comeback

Throughout this NBA season, young Los Angeles Lakers stars Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball have developed a pretty interesting rapport on social media with their ongoing Troll Wars. By the looks of it, the two have become pretty close friends since joining the team, and what do all good friends do best? Relentlessly roast the hell out of each other. Both have gotten some good digs in on each other, but now it looks like even Lonzo's younger brother LaMelo is getting involved in the back-and-forth. 

Ahead of a Jan. 17 contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kuzma posted a photo of his pregame fit to his Instagram. 

 

❄️❄️

A post shared by Kyle Kuzma (@kuzmakyle) on Jan 17, 2018 at 3:28pm PST

A quick look at the comments and you can see that LaMelo let his opinion be known that he wasn't too fond of the outfit Kuzma was flexing on social media by commenting, “He think he fly.” Rather than peacefully ignore the subtle jab, Kuzma decided the proper solution was to go right for LaMelo's jugular and clap back at his appearance as well. The high quality response read, “I'm so fly I could fly between that gap between yo teeth.”

No worries though. The 17-year old took the comment in stride. Apparently, he's even ready to fight another round after that haymaker. “Ima have to grill him,” LaMelo tweeted. 

This isn't the first time Kuzma has taken a shot at LaMelo. Before the 16-year old and his brother LiAngelo made the move from Chino Hills, California to Lithuania to play for Prienu Vytautas, LaMelo decided to post a goodbye on his IG. His caption read “Ima Miss The Hills,” and Kuzma was quick to assure LaMelo that “the hills ain't gone miss u.”

Kyle Kuzma, LaMelo Ball IG
Image via Imgur

This Troll Wars saga between the Ball family and Kuzma is starting to reach Bird-Magic levels of intensity, and we should all be appreciative of it. Most recently, Kuzma even came at Lonzo for rocking “toddler shoes.”

Despite the two young players clearly loving to come at each other's style whenever possible, the off-court chemistry is sure to eventually translate into some on-court success for years to come, much to the chagrin of Lakers fans everywhere. 

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Jalen Rose Calls Paul Pierce ‘Petty’ Over Celtics Remarks, Pierce Fires Back With ’81’ Joke

The NBA is taking #PettyWarz to a whole new level in 2018.

First, a little in-game wrassling between the Rockets and Clippers spilled into a locker room confrontation that had Twitter aflame with things like secret tunnels, diversions, Austin Rivers being arrogant, and LAPD takeovers. The following night, Orlando guard Arron Afflalo threw a reckless haymaker at Minnesota's Nemanja Bjelica. Then, after Michael Carter-Williams and Tim Frazier became the NBA's eighth and ninth ejections over the past three days, Wizards coach Scott Brooks dialed it up yet another notch by inviting Dwight Howard back onto the court to shoot the technical free throws, only to see Howard make both, do the Sam Cassell big balls dance, and blow a kiss to the Washington coach.

Incredible.

But perhaps the juiciest story of all revolves around Paul Pierce and Isaiah Thomas. Most of you know the details by now: Celtics announce celebration for Thomas during Feb. 11 Cleveland-Boston matchup; Pierce gets angry, wants own night for his jersey retirement; former Celtics sit down beside campfire, gush about how amazing they were; media/Twitter (ahem, Shannon Sharpe) remind Pierce he's no Kobe; Thomas posts veiled “hating hours” Instagram message. It could be the plot for season 2 of Big Little Lies.

Yesterday on ESPN's NBA Countdown, Jalen Rose summed up the whole thing when he called Pierce “petty” to his face, and the resulting back and forth had Pierce looking like he was ready to risk his job. (Thomas, for his part, liked the clip on social media.)

I mean, is Jalen Rose not correct? The Celtics honoring Isaiah during the game does not take away from Pierce's moment afterward. The Celtics honoring Isaiah for not just his play on the court but for what he inspired in their fans and the Boston community does not take away from Pierce's moment afterward.

Of course, being that petty is the theme of the month, Pierce wouldn't let it go, coming back at Rose with yet another “81” joke. The former Toronto Raptors guard will probably never live these down, but at least he can take it and keep it moving.

And the critics say the NBA isn't entertaining anymore because the Cavs and Warriors always win. 

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Matt Barnes Slams Austin Rivers: ‘He Talks a Lot of Trash and Doesn’t Really Back It Up’

Matt Barnes was never one to mince words, and the former NBA player went in on Tuesday, calling current Clippers guard Austin Rivers “arrogant” while blaming his father and coach Doc Rivers for the demise of the Los Angeles Clippers.

During a guest appearance on Mad Dog Sports Radio, Barnes pointed out that Austin Rivers has always rubbed people in the NBA the wrong way, from coaches and teammates to other players around the league.

“He carries himself like he's a 10-time All-Star,” said Barnes, who played three seasons in L.A. with the father-son Rivers duo, “and he's not that.”

Barnes also pinpointed Doc Rivers for many of the organization's recent failures. He noted that although Rivers initially did well after replacing Vinny Del Negro in 2013, the players didn't respect him. They thought he was fake, a phony who'd tell them one thing and then do something different. Barnes specifically mentioned how Doc Rivers handled his son's contract, giving the young player a three-year deal for $35 million in the summer of 2016 despite Austin Rivers being consistently rated one of the league's worst players by advanced metrics.

It's easy to see why so many within the game feel a certain way about the 25-year-old Austin Rivers. He grew up the son of an NBA player and eventually became one of the country's most hyped basketball prospects. He went to Duke. He came into the NBA with a reputation as a gunner, which only intensified once his father became the coach and president of basketball operations. The “arrogant” accusations will only increase after what happened on Monday night.

During a wild matchup between the Clippers and the Houston Rockets, trash talk and hard fouls quickly turned into something much more serious. After the game, Rockets players Trevor Ariza, James Harden, Gerald Green and Chris Paul attempted to enter the Clippers locker room. They were reportedly so incensed over belligerent trash talk coming from the Clippers bench, Rivers being the key cog in that, that they were ready to take the on-court disagreements to another level. The NBA has since launched an investigation into the events.

Barnes has never had a flowery personality. His issues with former teammates (hello Derek Fisher) run the gamut. However, this isn't the first time we've heard someone call out Austin Rivers for being arrogant. It likely won't be the last time, either.

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Clippers-Rockets Beef; NBA Midseason Awards | Out of Bounds

The beef was cooking in last night’s LA Clippers-Houston Rockets game and the #OutofBounds crew chops it up. Then, with NBA All-Star 2018 right around the corner, the crew switches things up and gives out midseason NBA awards, plus special OOB honors like Best Signature Shoes, Biggest Blowhard Coach, Worst NBA Starter, and Best Hot Mess. Did your faves make the list? Plus, Gil shares an hilarious story about Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard snapping on each other in Orlando.

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Even Cavs Players Are Doubtful They Can Win a Championship This Season

Contrary to popular opinion, LeBron James is human after all, and though his run of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals might make him seem otherworldly, it doesn't make him invincible. This season more than ever, it feels like Cleveland is surviving rather than thriving. At some point, someone in the East is going to beat them. And after Cleveland's 118-108 home loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors last night, we might've officially reached that point.

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, there is growing discontent and a strong sense of concern within the Cleveland locker room. The Cavs are 26-17 with only three wins in their last 12 games. They got blown out by a combined 62 points against Toronto and Minnesota last week. They might have the worst defense in the entire NBA, and they've slid so far that many of the team's veterans now doubt whether they can fix their problems this season.

Age. One-dimensional role players. Defensive-issues that go far beyond fundamentals. Several prominent players told ESPN, Cleveland.com, and The Athletic that the team's problems won't go away simply by getting healthy. 

This is not the first time we've heard grumblings coming out of Cleveland this season. Just last week, Yahoo! Sports reported there were complaints in the locker room about “personal agendas” getting in the way of success. Some Cavs players thought LeBron was chasing assists in an effort to win one final MVP award. Others didn't like coach Tyronn Lue's rotations. The bickering reeks of familiarity, like a family that's been living together far too long.

In past years during their inevitable regular season lapses, the team could lean on Kyrie Irving. But Irving is gone, and his replacement is a 28-year-old, 5'9″ defensive problem who may or may not ever be the same after returning from a major hip injury.

LeBron has to know all of this. He also knows Cleveland holds the rights to Brooklyn's first-round pick next summer—and that there are several names potentially available on the market. That pick and this year's trade deadline might be Cleveland's final chance to position themselves for one last run at a title. Among the NBA's contenders, they have the least to lose and the most to gain by making a deal.

No one ever expects a run to end before it does. Miami's Big Three era faded with a whimper, getting blitzed by 14 points per game against San Antonio in the 2014 Finals. Kobe's Lakers collapsed in a surprising sweep in 2011, burnt out and exhausted. Before that, it was Shaq and the Lakers getting old before our eyes and even before that, it was Houston and Hakeem Olajuwon getting run into the ground by Seattle and the Detroit Bad Boys wilting under the athleticism of Jordan's Bulls. 

Is this Cleveland's moment of reckoning? If it is, it shouldn't surprise anyone.

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Carmelo Anthony ‘Done’ With NBA Refs

According to Royce Young, Carmelo Anthony last week said, “You look at somebody wrong, you get a technical foul. You say one wrong thing, you get a technical foul.” Last night, it was true. Russell Westbrook was ejected after receiving two technicals for yelling at the referee, after the ref blatantly missed a call on Westbrook. The ref instead called a traveling violation on Westbrook, which he didn't respond kindly to. 

Westbrook finished the game with 19 points, 16 rebounds, and 9 assists while leading the Thunder to a 95-88 victory over the Sacramento Kings. However, Carmelo Anthony and head coach Billy Donovan weren't happy with the officials after the game. Anthony stated that he was “done with them” when speaking to reporters last night. 

Westbrook also didn't speak with reporters after the game (duh) which is a good thing because it probably saved him some money from a fine he would've received. Young points out that this was the second straight home game that Westbrook left the locker room before speaking with reporters. The Thunder have been up and down all season long, and still haven't figured out their identity. They sit at fifth in the Western Conference at 24-20, but if they figure this thing out, lead by last season's MVP and DPOY candidate, Paul George—the sky is the limit for this Thunder team. 

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LeBron James Calls Out Trump’s Racism During MLK Day Press Conference

LeBron James honored Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy before the Cleveland Cavaliers' match against the Golden State Warriors on MLK Day. He fit in a not-so-subtle dig at Donald Trump, too.

“He had a vision and he took a bullet for all of us. For us to stand here even though we're trying to be divided right now by somebody,” James said during a pre-game press conference. “Today is a great day for people to realize how America was built and how we all have to stand united in order to be one. Especially as Americans because we believe, we all know and we all believe, this is the greatest country in the world.” 

While the basketball star didn't directly mention Trump's name, he makes it very clear who he's referring to. He continued:

“The state of racism will never die, but what we can not do is allow it to conquer us as people. We can't allow it to divide us. The guy in control has given people and racism, and negative racism, an opportunity to be out and outspoken without fear. And that's the fearful thing for us because it's with you, and it's around every day. But he's allowed people to come out and just feel confident about doing negative things. We can't allow that to stop us from continuing to be together and preach the right word of living and loving and laughing and things of that nature. Because would we want to live anywhere else? I don't think so. We love this place.”

This isn't the first time James has called out Trump's racist and oppressive views. Last August, he tweeted Trump “just made [hate] fashionable again” in response to his reactions toward the Charlottesville protests. That was followed by the now-famous “U bum” moment after Trump targeted Steph Curry and revoked his invitation to the White House.

Watch James' reflection on Martin Luther King Jr. as well as his comments on Trump below:

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