We finally know what took Kawhi Leonard so long to make his decision.
While we all thought he was weighing out the option of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers or the Toronto Raptors, what he was really waiting on was a blockbuster trade.
Jerry West pulled the biggest rabbit out of his hat late Friday night, as he turned all the draft capital he has been stockpiling into Paul George, and in exchange, the top free agent on the market.
Leonard’s plan all along was to team up with George and the Clippers, so he implored PG13 to demand a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After it was long assumed that George would be heading to L.A. in free agency last year, he refused meeting with any other teams, signing on to play alongside Russell Westbrook long-term.
Well now Westbrook has been left twice by an MVP-caliber teammate, after George decided that he wanted to be in his hometown after all.
While Westbrook no longer has an All-Star to run with, the Thunder still got a massive package back in return.
For their roster next year, the Thunder get promising young point guard Shay Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran Danilo Gallinari.
Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 13.7 points and 3.2 assists in the playoffs this year, showing that he has a bright future in the NBA. The Thunder also get five first-round draft picks, giving them plenty of assets to build around Westbrook in the future.
Coming into this offseason, the Clippers were always seen as the front-runners to get Kawhi and another max player, but no one had that player being Paul George.
Once they had the deal to acquire George, Leonard promptly signed a four-year, $142 million max contract with the Clippers.
This offseason the two biggest markets in the NBA, L.A. and New York, landed all of the top superstar free agents. The crazy part is that they went to the teams that have always been perceived as secondary in their market.
At least the Lakers are left with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as opposed to the roster that will be playing in Madison Square Garden.
One thing is clear after this blockbuster move tonight. The Staples Center is going to feature the best show in the sport next year, as this could be the start of one of the greatest crosstown rivalries in the history of sports.
Miami Heat Remain Undefeated at Home Behind Jimmy Butler’s Triple-Double Over the Wizards
Last season, the Miami Heat missed the playoffs by just two games, finishing with a 39-43 record.
The biggest reason for their absence in the postseason was a bad record at home, as the Heat were under .500 with a 19-22 record. Miami hoped to change that this season and set out to win more games in their building.
So far so good for the Heat, as Friday night’s victory over the Washington Wizards improved their home record to a perfect 9-0 this season.
Not only have the Heat improved on their home record from a year ago, but they are off to the best start at home in franchise history. A big reason for all that success is No. 22, as Jimmy Butler has been a breath of fresh air in Miami.
Butler gives the Heat their first real superstar since the Big Three era and he has quickly turned them into a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
Friday night’s performance for Butler included a game-high 28 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his second triple-double of the season.
Butler had his first triple double in a Heat uniform on Tuesday, when he led his team to an overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors. Butler outscored the Raptors 8-2 in that overtime period, giving Toronto their first home loss of the season.
While Butler has been great whenever he is on the floor, the biggest asset he brings to Miami is his ability to close games.
The Miami Heat moved to 16-6 with their win over the Wizards and are currently slated for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Whether they can continue to win at that clip is yet to be determined but two things have become clear. The Heat have found an identity behind Butler’s play and no one should want to travel to Miami right now.
Bucks Dismantle the Clippers in Potential Finals Preview to Extend Winning Streak
While the Los Angeles Lakers will certainly have something to say about it, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding a potential matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee has been pacing the Eastern Conference all season behind the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, after finishing last year with an NBA-best 60-22 record.
Meanwhile the Clippers have a very deep roster full of stout defenders and a duo of two-way superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
With all that being said, there was a lot of anticipation going into Friday night’s game between these two powerhouses, but the result did not quite live up to the hype.
The final score ended up being 119-91, as the Bucks just steamrolled the Clippers with ease on their home floor.
Giannis led the Bucks with a game-high 27 points and 11 rebounds, needing to play just 26 minutes of work before sitting down with the win in hand.
This game was special for Giannis for a whole different reason, as it was his 25th birthday. There is probably no better president than a blowout victory against a difficult opponent.
Especially when you are extending your team’s winning streak to an NBA-best 14 games.
This is actually not the first time that these two teams have squared off this year, as they met very early in the season.
In that game both teams entered with a 5-2 record, but the Bucks went home with the victory, beating the Clippers in a close game in the Staples Center.
With Friday’s win, that concludes the season series between these two teams. If the Bucks and Clippers are to meet again, it would have to be in the NBA Finals.
Trail Blazers’ Rodney Hood Out for the Season with Torn Achilles Tendon
Rodney Hood has been a very solid player for the Portland Trail Blazers this year, starting 21 games at the small forward position.
Hood has provided Portland with exactly what you want for a team with a high volume scoring backcourt, as a great three-and-D wing. Hood was shooting a career-best 49% from three-point range.
Unfortunately Hood’s season just came to a screeching halt, as 27-year-old exited Friday night’s game with what turned out to be a torn Achilles tendon.
Hood went to the locker room following the injury and it was later diagnosed as the worst case scenario for any NBA player.
Hood will now miss the remainder of this season and could miss a significant portion of next season as well, as he recovers from this injury.
Luckily, he does have a player option worth just over $6 million for next season, so Hood will still have a home while he rehabs from this devastating injury.
Hopefully Hood can make a full recovery and enjoy a long career in the NBA.
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