Report: Pachulia not expected to face punishment for closeout on Kawhi

Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia is not expected to face punishment for his “unnatural closeout” on Kawhi Leonard during Sunday’s Game 1, league sources tell ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Leonard was forced out of the contest with a left ankle sprain after being undercut by Pachulia in the third quarter. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Monday that the two-time All-Star will not be playing in Tuesday's Game 2.

While Pachulia said it was "really stupid" to believe he injured Leonard on purpose, Popovich thought otherwise, ripping the 33-year-old for undercutting his star forward.

“The two-step, lead-with-your-foot closeout is not appropriate,” Popovich said. “It’s dangerous, it’s unsportsmanlike, it’s just not what anybody does to anybody else. And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action.”

With Leonard out of the game, the Spurs struggled to hold onto their 23-point lead, falling 113-111 to Golden State.

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NBA | theScore

Watch: D-Backs’ Iannetta exits after taking 93-mph fastball to face

Chris Iannetta left Friday’s game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh inning after being hit in the face by a 93-mph fastball from reliever Johnny Barbato.

The Diamondbacks later announced he was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.

On a 1-2 count, Barbato lost control of his pitch that sailed high and inside on Iannetta, who couldn’t react in time to avoid the impact. The Diamondbacks catcher appeared to be conscious following the incident, though he was seen bleeding from the face before leaving the field.

He was replaced by pinch runner Chris Herrmann at first base.

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MLB | theScore

Raptors face a summer of question marks

These Toronto Raptors were a good team. The problem is – in the pursuit of a modern-day NBA championship – they weren’t a great team. Sure, build a time machine and plop this squad down in the 2004-05 season before LeBron James became The King, and maybe it’s a different story.

Of course that’s ridiculous, like the logistics of Ja Rule and a tech guy planning an oceanfront concert. And it’s why the Raptors face a summer of uncertainty. While their situation differs somewhat from that of the Los Angeles Clippers, the essential question remains the same: What good is good, if it’s not good enough?

Four of the nine players who made up Toronto’s rotation down in the stretch and in the playoffs will be unrestricted free agents, including catalyst Kyle Lowry.

Raptors rotation player Contract status
Kyle Lowry Option/UFA
Serge Ibaka UFA
Patrick Patterson UFA
P.J. Tucker UFA
DeMar DeRozan 4 years/$ 111.2M/option 2020
Jonas Valanciunas 3 years/$ 49.5M/option 2019
DeMarre Carroll 2 years/$ 30.2M
Cory Joseph 2 years/$ 15.5M/option 2018
Noman Powell 2 years/$ 3.2M/QO 2018

Locking up Lowry means a five-year deal in the vicinity of $ 200 million. He will be 36 years old when that contract expires. He also missed 21 games this season due to a wrist injury, and the team’s last two playoffs contests with an ankle injury. The Raptors will have Serge Ibaka‘s Bird rights, but that would skyrocket expenditures this summer should they retain both Ibaka and Lowry (the pair have the same agent, Andy Miller).

That’s where the “why” comes in. If, as Lowry said himself, “nobody’s closing the gap on” James, why keep trying to beat him with the same roster? Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

There’s more to it than that, though. Teams, in theory, shouldn’t just roll over and give up. However, there’s a harsh reality in the NBA that many sports fans just don’t care for – that being, if you don’t have a superstar, you don’t win.

Yet there’s also standard logic to questioning the value of giving an aging, presently injured player one-fifth of a billion dollars. And it’s from that question that everything else will flow with the Raptors – whether it’s Ibaka’s future, possibly coach Dwane Casey’s future, and whether valued role players like Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker are retained.

Related: Despite sweep, Casey likes Raptors’ makeup

Compounding matters is Lowry’s value to this particular Raptors roster, specifically teammate and good friend DeMar DeRozan. In these playoffs alone, the Raptors were 15 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Lowry on the floor going into Game 4 against Cleveland. They were 11.9 points better without DeRozan.

That’s not a fluke number. The problem for the Raptors is the two rotation parts they currently have contractual control of for the longest – DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas – are essentially players of a bygone era. While DeRozan is very good at what he does, what he doesn’t do – specifically, shoot threes – can hamstring a team in today’s NBA.

That’s not to say he couldn’t flourish without Lowry. Watch DeRozan long enough, you can envision him being an effective small-ball four. But he needs to be completely surrounded by versatile 3-point shooters. And if the Raptors lose Lowry, they lose their best perimeter shooter.

Related: Lowry will reportedly consider joining Western Conference teams

Valanciunas is a tough player to move because the current market for traditional centers who don’t space or defend well is similar to the current marketplace for typewriters. In DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors have a player who was supposed to be their best 3-and-D guy, but has instead seen his body betrayed by injury.

This era of Raptors basketball – easily the most successful in franchise history – was a total mistake that was never supposed to happen. When general manager Masai Ujiri traded away Rudy Gay in December 2013, it was meant to be the beginning of a rebuild (and possibly a tank that's intended result could have been netting Toronto native Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft).

Instead, the addition-by-subtraction move, combined with the incompetence of New York Knicks owner James Dolan for turning down a trade for Lowry, propelled the Raps to three straight division titles, back-to-back 50-win seasons, and a reborn image on the local sports scene.

More than three years later, however, there’s a feeling of stagnation. Even the die-hard fans, who filled the square outside the Air Canada Centre during games the past three springs, seemed toned down this year, and there were less of them in comparison to those of the NHL’s Maple Leafs, eliminated a round earlier.

Some of that is Canadian nuance, but maybe those fans – and the Raptors have some of the most committed and knowledgeable in the NBA – felt it was the anticlimactic end of an era. There’s a pretty good chance that in one way or another, it was.

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NBA | theScore

Nicki Minaj To Be Face Of H&M’s Holiday Campaign

Nicki Minaj is rolling with H&M. The Hip-Hop star will be face of H&M’s forthcoming holiday campaign. 

But first, she will be rocking H&M to tonight’s (May 1) Met Gala is NYC.

Reports Page Six:

Page Six can exclusively reveal the rapper will wear H&M to the glitzy event, which has a theme of Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons.

Minaj will also be the face of the retailer’s upcoming holiday campaign, we’re told.

Last year, Minaj, 34, was escorted by Jeremy Scott, who designs for the fashion house Moschino.

Recently, Nicki Minaj signed with Wilhelmina Modeling while her partnership with K-Mart came to an end earlier this year.

See photos of Nicki Minaj at the 2016 Met Gala below.


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