UPDATE, 2:27 p.m.: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is basically taking a wait-and-see approach with Kawhi Leonard’s status for Game 6 tonight …
Coach Pop and Patty Mills talk Houston and Game 6 from today's shootaround pic.twitter.com/q6XB7U0b4Y
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 11, 2017
ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright has more on what Popovich had to say after Thursday’s shootaround:
Leonard, who is officially listed as questionable, was walking slowly, but without a noticeable limp, as he arrived at the team’s shootaround in Houston on Thursday.
“It’s not an empirical formula,” Popovich said after practice. “You watch, you feel, you talk to the player and you come to a decision. Going to take as much time as possible, see what he feels like, see what I see and make a decision.”
Popovich said the Spurs are considering resting Leonard for Game 6, as it would give him more time to heal before a potential Game 7 or the Western Conference finals, saying that “you factor [that] in as much as you can.”
Reserve point guard Patty Mills, who is filling in for injured starter Tony Parker, said Leonard’s potential absence shouldn’t alter San Antonio’s focus headed into Thursday’s matchup at the Toyota Center.
“It shouldn’t change anyone else’s mindset,” Mills said. “Everyone did a great job of executing their roles last game. It should be the same. It has to be the same.”
Throughout Game 5, Leonard also appeared to be nursing a sore right knee, as he returned to the bench on multiple occasions to have athletic trainers tend to the injured area. Popovich declined to discuss specifics regarding Leonard’s knee.
“I don’t really want to discuss his medical situation,” Popovich said. “Everybody’s got bumps and bruises by this time of the season to some degree. I’m sure the Rockets have got some players that are dealing with some stuff. We all do that.”
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No. 1: Leonard officially questionable for Game 6 — Kawhi Leonard said after Game 5 that the ankle injury he suffered in that contest wouldn’t keep him from suiting up for Game 6. However, the San Antonio Spurs are listing their star forward as questionable for tonight’s Game 6, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has been listed as questionable for Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals on Thursday, after suffering a sprained left ankle.
Leonard suffered the injury in the middle of the third quarter Tuesday, missing the end of the fourth and all of overtime in the Spurs’ 110-107 win in Game 5.
The Spurs hold a 3-2 lead in the series, and could close it out with a victory at the Toyota Center.
After Tuesday’s game, Leonard — the Spurs’ top defender and leading scorer — seemed confident in his intentions.
“I’m going to play,” he said.
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No. 2: D’Antoni won’t say if he’ll expand rotation for Game 6 — Customarily, NBA coaches tighten their player rotations in the playoffs to give the most minutes to their best players. Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has followed that strategy, but Rockets fans and NBA followers alike were puzzled by who he didn’t play in a Game 5 OT loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Whether or not that will change for Game 6 tonight remains unclear, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
The Rockets on Tuesday went with the seven-player rotation Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni had suggested would be his preference since Nene’s season-ending injury forced the rotation shuffle.
D’Antoni offered no indication he would expand the rotation after Tuesday’s loss, saying the walk from the AT&T Center visitors’ locker room to the post-game interview room was not long enough to consider options. (There was no media availability with either team Wednesday.)
“I don’t know,” D’Antoni said of his plans for his rotation in Game 6. “I didn’t think about it too much on the way here, but I’ll think about it and I’ll let you know tomorrow or the next day or maybe not. I have no clue.”
Through four quarters, no one played more than 40 minutes. Even with the overtime, the Rockets’ two players off the bench, Ryan Anderson and Lou Williams, played 36 and 26 minutes, respectively. James Harden, who has averaged 37 minutes per game in the playoffs even with several blowouts allowing him to sit out late in games, played 38 minutes before overtime.
During the regular season, D’Antoni had called on Montrezl Harrell when either Nene or Clint Capela were unavailable. But he clearly did not want to bring Harrell back into the rotation late in a playoff series.
“He hasn’t played for a while, and I’m just confident with the guys we’ve got,” D’Antoni said. “We have got to open the floor up. I don’t think that it’s … play exactly like they play and see who is the best. So, we are trying to accentuate what we do well and do it better, and do it longer.”
D’Antoni said fatigue might have led to the Rockets’ lack of pace in overtime. He had said Harrell and forward Sam Dekker could be options if foul trouble or other factors forced him to expand his rotation.
“We’ll go read the game,” D’Antoni said before Game 5 on Tuesday, “and (if) guys get tired we will (expand the rotation, if) guys get in foul trouble we will. But if we are playing well and guys are good, then we are good.”
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No. 3: Porzingis looking to stay with Knicks, says brother — As one of the promising young talents in the NBA, Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks has a myriad of skills that entice rival teams around the league. There had been talk at season’s end — and, particularly, after Porzingis missed his exit interview with the team — that he may be on the trading block. However, in an interview with ESPN.com’s Ian Begley, Porzingis’ brother says Porzingis wants to stay put:
Kristaps Porzingis’ brother Janis Porzingis said the Knicks forward wishes to remain in New York but also wants the club to create an environment conducive to player development and winning.
His brother made it clear that if traded, Porzingis intends to play out his contract and test free agency.
“Kris wants to stay in New York; he feels at home there. There is no question about it. The only thing he wants is for the Knicks to create an environment where he can develop and grow as a player and win,” Janis Porzingis said in an interview with ESPN. “If he were traded, he would play out his contract and head into free agency, where he can choose his own destiny.”
Janis Porzingis, a certified agent, works for the agency of Andy Miller, who is Kristaps’ agent.
Several teams reached out to the Knicks to talk about possible trades for Porzingis in the days after he skipped his exit meeting with team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills, league sources previously said.
It is unclear whether the discussions led to substantial trade parameters. Teams were inquiring about trading for Porzingis, 21, after he showed his frustration with the direction of the franchise by skipping the meeting.
Porzingis had been frustrated by the drama and dysfunction surrounding the team this season, according to team sources. His brother declined to comment on the rationale behind Porzingis having skipped exit meetings.
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No. 4: Green calls out media for headlines — During his rise to NBA stardom, Golden State Warriors All-Star forward Draymond Green has made it clear he is no shrinking violet in any situation. He has had plenty to say this postseason, from comments about Salt Lake City’s night life, the play of Boston’s Kelly Olynyk to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff bracket. How that last topic was portrayed in the media, in particular, drew his ire on Wednesday, writes Chris Haynes of ESPN.com:
On Monday, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said he thought teams would give the Cleveland Cavaliers a stiffer challenge in the playoffs. On Wednesday after practice, he revealed that he took offense to the headlines some went with regarding those comments.
“I didn’t say I was disappointed with their competition,” Green said. “First off, people always want to take a piece of a statement and then say, ‘Ah man, Draymond said the Cavs aren’t playing anybody.’ They never say, ‘Draymond said Cleveland is playing great basketball.’
“So everybody is always chasing a headline, the controversy. Watching ESPN is like watching a controversial reality TV show. It’s pretty pathetic that that’s what the headline everybody wants.”
Earlier in the week, Green was asked his opinion on the Cavaliers and what they’ve been able to accomplish by going 8-0 in the playoffs.
His response: “I thought teams would compete a little harder. I just watched San Antonio-Houston. I like to watch good basketball. When you watch Cleveland play, you’re only watching one side of the good basketball. That’s kind of weak. I like watching a good game, not even necessarily that it’s going to be a close game. I like to watch teams playing good basketball. When you watch them, you watch one team playing good basketball and everybody else do something. I don’t know what that something is.”
Green is known for being provocative and making controversial statements, but on this occasion, he apparently felt what he said didn’t warrant the outrage.
“‘Draymond is disappointed with who Cleveland plays.’ You think I care who Cleveland plays or how the other team plays?” he said. “But I am a basketball fan and I know what I want to watch as a basketball fan. So I don’t understand how all these things are always made so controversial. Not that it alters my daily life. I still go home and have fun with my kids and have a great day. But it’s just ridiculous how everybody is always searching for a controversy.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant isn’t exactly a huge advocate for the NBA Draft Combine … Big moment for The Starters last night — the 50-wedgie plateau has been reached! … Utah Jazz fan favorite Joe Ingles says he wants to re-sign with the team this summer … Making the case for the Philadelphia 76ers to pursue native son/All-Star guard Kyle Lowry in free agency … Phoenix Suns guard Tyler Ulis had a minor surgery on his ankle yesterday …