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Following the Pelicans’ devastating loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday night, a defeated Anthony Davis couldn’t hide his frustration to the media.

“We’re a better team than our record shows. Everyone is frustrated. Players, coaches, front office. We’ve just got to do better,” Davis told ESPN. “We wasn’t playing no defense. The whole first half, they did whatever they wanted. They didn’t feel us on the defensive end. We wasn’t physical, wasn’t talking. They got a lot of layups, a lot of open 3s. They shot the ball extremely well in the first half due to our lazy defense.”

Despite Davis finishing the game with 34 points and a career-high 26 rebounds, New Orleans failed to pull off a victory against a team they should’ve beaten. Sadly, this kind of narrative has been normal for the young star since he was drafted back in 2012.

This reality has us all wondering when Davis will call it enough. How long will he keep on losing? How long will he continue to put up with a franchise that has routinely lacked the ability to build and sustain playoff teams?

Most think it won’t be much longer and, as Kay Williams put it on ESPN’s morning show “Get Up,” it’s only a matter of time until Davis forces a trade out of The Big Easy.

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LeBron James declaring himself the greatest NBA player of all time has sparked a pretty fierce public debate.

Perhaps that was all part of his plan?

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was asked Thursday what he thought of the Los Angeles Lakers star’s recent remarks about being the GOAT and made an interesting analogy while wondering aloud why James would make those comments with more basketball ahead of him.

“His career’s not over,” Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich.” “I’d just like to — why he’s saying that, I don’t know. Maybe he thinks that that sells. Maybe he’s taking the Donald Trump approach and trying to sell himself. I don’t know.”

James made the statement on his new show, “More Than An Athlete,” which airs on ESPN+ and is produced in partnership with his media company, UNINTERRUPTED. So, while LeBron is getting some pretty harsh blowback for his boast, he’s still drumming up awareness for his own business venture

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THE FIRST MEETING Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse had with Kawhi Leonard came with trepidation.

As Nurse walked down the hall from his office inside the team’s practice facility to the coach’s meeting room last July, just weeks after being named Toronto’s head coach, uncertainty loomed large. Nurse had heard that Leonard might not have been happy with his trade destination and that some people within the Raptors organization were less than thrilled that a beloved franchise icon, DeMar DeRozan, had been sent to San Antonio in exchange.

“So here we are in a meeting,” Nurse said last week inside that same office, “and I was thinking: What if this guy just sits there and says, ‘I’m not ready to talk to anybody yet?’ What am I gonna do?”

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It turned out that Nurse had nothing to worry about. When the meeting started, he asked Leonard if he had any questions. The star forward said yes.

The rest, Nurse said, took care of itself.

“Next thing you know, it led to me being at the board, drawing plays, with him standing up there with me,” Nurse said. “It was an interesting first meeting. He was super engaging, and his basketball mind was awesome, and it was fun.”

It was the moment Leonard’s integration into his new team began. In the months since, Leonard has become the clear go-to guy on a team that has the most wins in the NBA this season. The Raptors also hope it was the moment they can point to as laying the foundation for a years-long relationship with the pending free agent.

“We’re playing well,” Leonard told ESPN. “It’s a lot to make an adjustment to be here. It’s different. It’s a different culture, a different mindset than what me and Danny [Green] are coming from.”

As soon as they acquired Leonard, the Raptors knew they had plenty of ground to make up to convince him to stay beyond this season.

TEAM W L WIN% GB CONF DIV HOME ROAD L10 STREAK
Milwaukee Wins26 Losses10 Win Percentage.722 Games Behind0.5 Conference Record18 and 5 Division Recordand 1 Home Record17 and 3 Away Recordand 7 Last Ten Recordand 2 StreakW 4
Toronto Wins28 Losses11 Win Percentage.718 Games Behind Conference Record17 and 7 Division Recordand 3 Home Record15 and 4 Away Record13 and 7 Last Ten Recordand 4 StreakW 2
Indiana Wins25 Losses12 Win Percentage.676 Games Behind2 Conference Record19 and 5 Division Recordand 2 Home Record14 and 5 Away Record11 and 7 Last Ten Recordand 2 StreakW 5
Philadelphia Wins25 Losses14 Win Percentage.641 Games Behind3 Conference Record17 and 11 Division Recordand 6 Home Record16 and 3 Away Recordand 11 Last Ten Recordand 4 StreakW 2
Boston Wins22 Losses15 Win Percentage.595 Games Behind5 Conference Record15 and 7 Division Recordand 2 Home Record12 and 5 Away Record10 and 10 Last Ten Recordand 5 StreakW 1
Miami Wins18 Losses18 Win Percentage.500 Games Behind8.5 Conference Recordand 13 Division Recordand 7 Home Recordand 11 Away Record10 and 7 Last Ten Recordand 3 StreakW 1
Charlotte Wins18 Losses19 Win Percentage.486 Games Behind9 Conference Record17 and 12 Division Recordand 2 Home Record14 and 8 Away Recordand 11 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakL 1
Detroit Wins17 Losses19 Win Percentage.472 Games Behind9.5 Conference Record12 and 16 Division Recordand 4 Home Record11 and 8 Away Recordand 11 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakW 1
Brooklyn Wins18 Losses21 Win Percentage.462 Games Behind10 Conference Record13 and 10 Division Recordand 2 Home Record10 and 11 Away Recordand 10 Last Ten Recordand 3 StreakW 1
Orlando Wins17 Losses20 Win Percentage.459 Games Behind10 Conference Record12 and 10 Division Recordand 4 Home Record10 and 11 Away Recordand 9 Last Ten Recordand 5 StreakW 1
Washington Wins15 Losses23 Win Percentage.395 Games Behind12.5 Conference Recordand 14 Division Recordand 3 Home Record11 and 7 Away Recordand 16 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakW 2
Atlanta Wins11 Losses26 Win Percentage.297 Games Behind16 Conference Recordand 17 Division Recordand 4 Home Recordand 10 Away Recordand 16 Last Ten Recordand 5 StreakL 2
Chicago Wins10 Losses28 Win Percentage.263 Games Behind17.5 Conference Recordand 16 Division Recordand 6 Home Recordand 14 Away Recordand 14 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakL 2
New York Wins9 Losses29 Win Percentage.237 Games Behind18.5 Conference Recordand 22 Division Recordand 7 Home Recordand 12 Away Recordand 17 Last Ten Recordand 9 StreakL 8
Cleveland Wins8 Losses30 Win Percentage.211 Games Behind19.5 Conference Recordand 21 Division Recordand 7 Home Recordand 14 Away Recordand 16 Last Ten Recordand 9 StreakL 7
Western Conference
TEAM W L WIN% GB CONF DIV HOME ROAD L10 STREAK
Denver Wins24 Losses11 Win Percentage.686 Games Behind Conference Record15 and 6 Division Recordand 0 Home Record15 and 3 Away Recordand 8 Last Ten Recordand 3 StreakW 3
Golden State Wins25 Losses13 Win Percentage.658 Games Behind0.5 Conference Record15 and 9 Division Recordand 2 Home Record15 and 5 Away Record10 and 8 Last Ten Recordand 4 StreakW 2
Oklahoma City Wins24 Losses13 Win Percentage.649 Games Behind1 Conference Record14 and 11 Division Recordand 3 Home Record13 and 4 Away Record11 and 9 Last Ten Recordand 3 StreakW 2
Houston Wins21 Losses15 Win Percentage.583 Games Behind3.5 Conference Record13 and 11 Division Recordand 4 Home Record13 and 5 Away Recordand 10 Last Ten Recordand 1 StreakW 5
Portland Wins22 Losses16 Win Percentage.579 Games Behind3.5 Conference Record13 and 13 Division Recordand 4 Home Record14 and 6 Away Recordand 10 Last Ten Recordand 3 StreakW 2
LA Clippers Wins21 Losses16 Win Percentage.568 Games Behind4 Conference Record16 and 11 Division Recordand 1 Home Record12 and 6 Away Recordand 10 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakL 2
San Antonio Wins21 Losses17 Win Percentage.553 Games Behind4.5 Conference Record16 and 12 Division Recordand 4 Home Record15 and 5 Away Recordand 12 Last Ten Recordand 3 StreakW 2
Los Angeles Lakers Wins21 Losses17 Win Percentage.553 Games Behind4.5 Conference Record15 and 12 Division Recordand 2 Home Record13 and 7 Away Recordand 10 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakL 1
Sacramento Wins19 Losses18 Win Percentage.514 Games Behind6 Conference Record12 and 15 Division Recordand 6 Home Record10 and 8 Away Recordand 10 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakL 2
Memphis Wins18 Losses19 Win Percentage.486 Games Behind7 Conference Record12 and 12 Division Recordand 2 Home Record10 and 8 Away Recordand 11 Last Ten Recordand 8 StreakL 3
Dallas Wins18 Losses19 Win Percentage.486 Games Behind7 Conference Record10 and 16 Division Recordand 4 Home Record15 and 3 Away Recordand 16 Last Ten Recordand 7 StreakW 1
Utah Wins18 Losses20 Win Percentage.474 Games Behind7.5 Conference Record12 and 12 Division Recordand 4 Home Recordand 8 Away Record10 and 12 Last Ten Recordand 5 StreakL 1
Minnesota Wins17 Losses21 Win Percentage.447 Games Behind8.5 Conference Recordand 15 Division Recordand 3 Home Record12 and 6 Away Recordand 15 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakL 2
New Orleans Wins17 Losses22 Win Percentage.436 Games Behind9 Conference Record10 and 13 Division Recordand 4 Home Record13 and 6 Away Recordand 16 Last Ten Recordand 7 StreakL 1
Phoenix Wins9 Losses30 Win Percentage.231 Games Behind17 Conference Recordand 18 Division Recordand 7 Home Recordand 15 Away Recordand 15 Last Ten Recordand 6 StreakL 4

Like the rest of the top free agents in this year’s class — including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson — Leonard has the prior accomplishments, including a championship ring and Finals MVP award, that allow him the freedom to make the choice that makes him happiest on a personal level this summer.

It was no secret that as his time in San Antonio was coming to an end last summer, Leonard’s desire was to return to his native Southern California. Meanwhile, getting a read on Leonard’s thinking — unlike with Paul Georgeduring his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder — was always going to be difficult.

Toronto knew its only legitimate chance to get Leonard for the long term was to trade for him first, then spend the better part of a year selling him on its vision for a shared future — one with the two-way star as the franchise’s centerpiece.

FROM THE MOMENT the Raptors traded for Leonard, they began planning for July 1, when Leonard will hit free agency and Toronto will attempt to convince him to remain the face of this organization. The Raptors will point to all of the details, both on and off the court, that they believe tip the scales in their favor — details Leonard will have spent an entire season seeing firsthand.

“You can always make that pitch, [and] you can believe it,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said. “But professional athletes see it, and they come in, and they know the difference between organizations. To live it, and to be here, you see it, and you live it every single day. They know if you’re bulls—-ing them.”

For his part, Leonard declined to say what his priorities will be when he decides where to play next season.

“I’m not thinking about that,” he told ESPN. “I’m focused on right now, what this is bringing for me and focused on the opportunity that I have here and what we can do this season.

“Later down the road, that’s when I’ll make my decision.”

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Webster and Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri are optimistic about their chances when Leonard does make his decision, for plenty of reasons. Toronto won at least 51 games in each of the three seasons prior to Leonard’s arrival and enters Thursday night’s game against the Spurs with a league-high 28 wins. FiveThirtyEight’s NBA projections give the Raptors a 38 percent chance to reach the NBA Finals, something Toronto has never done.

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As we relayed yesterday, Celtics guard Kyrie Irving suffered a scratched cornea in Monday’s loss to the Spurs after being on the receiving end of an accidental elbow from Marco Belinelli. Irving was able to reenter the game, but it now appears that the injury to both eyes is more severe than previously anticipated.

Speaking earlier today to Zolak & Bertrand of Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub (h/t to NBC Sports Boston), head coach Brad Stevens sounded confident that Irving will miss both tonight’s game against the Timberwolves and beyond.

“Yes (Irving’s absence may extend beyond tonight’s game), but that will be re-evaluated tomorrow. He got swiped across the face, and it was a unique deal because it got both eyes. And the right eye was the initial concern with the corneal abrasion.

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DeMarcus Cousins is stuck in a basketball waiting game. The four-time All-Star has yet to make his Golden State Warriors debut after suffering an Achilles tear just under a year ago, yet he seems to be just about healthy.

On Wednesday, the Warriors star center once again went through a full practice with the team, suggesting that he is doing well physically.

In fact, Boogie is feeling so good, that he’s encouraging his teammates to attack him during scrimmages.

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On the best roll of his career, James Harden has returned his name to the conversations about MVP. That includes his own willingness to openly seek the honor for a second-consecutive season.

Asked if he is “hungry” to win the award again, Harden said, “I need it. I need it for sure. And I’m going to get it.

“Individually, I got to bring it every night and make sure the guys around me in that locker room are on the same level,” Harden said. “It’s a great feeling. Individually, I got to make sure I’m on my A game every night, and that’s not just scoring. That’s being a leader every night. That’s making sure I’m communicating with my guys and we’re putting ourselves in positions to win games.”

Harden has scored at least 30 points in 10-consecutive games, averaging 40.8 points per game in that stretch, and at least 40 points in his past four games. His streak of eight-consecutive games with at least 35 points and five assists in the longest in NBA history.

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Paul George appears to have spurned the Los Angeles Lakers and agreed to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency, and that may be because of the relationships he built in OKC over the past year.

One relationship, in particular.

Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Saturday that a rival executive believes Russell Westbrook played a role in George’s decision: “This is a friendship decision to stay in OKC as much as anything.”

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That goes along with what George said early on in his Thunder career last year, when he revealed to reporters that Westbrook signing a five-year extension with Oklahoma City would “absolutely” make his free-agent decision “easier”:

George echoed those sentiments back in January when he was getting Westbrook’s support for an All-Star campaign, via ESPN.com’s Royce Young: “Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming even more easier to make, is the character Russ [has]. A stand-up guy, and he has his teammate’s back.”

Knowing all of that, it should come as no surprise that George announced his return with Westbrook by his side at a “summer hype house party” that the point guard hosted, per Young.


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