Illinois center Meyers Leonard has impressed NBA executives in recent weeks with his athleticism, agility and ability to run the floor. Thing is, Leonard is every bit as impressive off-the-court, displaying a maturity and wisdom beyond his 20 years.Leonard has not had an easy life, but hes managed to persevere and is now in a position to be one of the top big men selected in next Thursdays NBA draft.Leonards father passed away after a bicycle accident when Leonard was just six years old. And from nearly the same time, Leonards mother has been homebound with severe back pain. It has prevented her from working and being able to afford surgery.Leonards brother, Bailey, is a U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan.After working out with the Warriors on Saturday afternoon, Leonard spent some time talking about his game and what he brings to the table. But he also spoke of what making the NBA would mean in terms of being able to help his mother and all the people who supported him over the years.It is that grown-up side of Leonard that is every bit as noticeable and important as the 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks shots per game he averaged as junior for the Illini.Check out the video of Leonards post-workout interview with the media.
When it rains, it pours for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After starting the season 24-9, they have cratered. Including two losses to the Warriors and one to the Kings, the Cavs are 3-8 over their last 11 games.
During the stretch, they suffered through a four-game losing streak and nearly blew a 23-point lead against the Magic on Thursday.
But nothing was worse than what happened in front of a national TV audience on Saturday. The visiting Oklahoma City Thunder strolled into Quicken Loans Arena and hung 148 points on the defending Eastern Conference champs and won by 24 points.
Saturday's performance was so bad, former Cavs head coach David Blatt took a shot at them before coaching the Team Europe in the Turkish Basketball Super League All-Star Game in Instabul.
Asked by a sideline reporter for his thoughts on the game he was about to coach, Blatt offered this:
"Well, I don't think we're going to have any problem scoring. I'm just wondering if we're going to defend anybody. That's what I'm worried about," Blatt said.
The reporter followed up by asking for his expectation of the final score. That's when Blatt threw a haymaker at the team that fired him during the 2015-16 season despite a 30-11 record.
"Well, I hope we don't give up as many points as the Cavaliers did last night," Blatt said.
Unfortunately for Blatt, Team Europe lost 151-142 to Team Asia.
The Rockets are riding high after their 116-108 win over the Warriors on Saturday night.
Maybe a little too high.
After the game, starting center Clint Capela had some bold things to say about the rivalry.
"We're confident because we know if we're doing what we're supposed to do, we're going to beat them. We've got to keep playing. We know that they're going to come back if we have the lead, and we've just got to keep that mindset. Sometimes I feel like, in the past, we were all dragging down after mistakes. But today, we were ready. I think that if we're doing what we're supposed to do on defense -- all the switches, the weak side -- and keep playing our offense by keeping that mentality all game long, we have the weapons to beat them. We are better than them," Capela told ESPN after the game in Houston.
The young big man doubled down.
"We're definitely the best in the league with everybody healthy. We've definitely got a chance to get that 1-seed back. The thing is, of course, we're excited because it's the Warriors, but Monday is an important game, too. If we lose and the [Warriors] win their game, what was the point? The next game, every single time, is going to be the key to go get the No. 1, first seed," Capela told ESPN.
Guard Eric Gordon didn't go as far, but still compared the Rockets favorably to the Warriors.
"Offensively, we're just as good as them, no question. Defensively, they're a championship team. They're consistent, whether they win or lose. Us, we still have peaks and valleys. We just can't have those. That's why we've got to play well the next game, because we just have to sustain the same effort," Gordon said via ESPN.
The Rockets won the season-series with the Warriors by taking two out of the three meetings. They now trail the Warriors by 3.5 games in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference.
But are they really better than the defending NBA champs? Are the Warriors worried at all about the Rockets?
"The season starts over when you're in the playoffs anyway, so it doesn't matter. You're going to have to get through these teams to get to where you want to go. You have to play at home and on the road, so it really doesn't matter. We just want to be playing good basketball when it comes down to that point," Warriors forward Kevin Durant told ESPN after the game.
Draymond Green really didn't want to hear about home-court advantage.
"It's game 40-what? Seven, eight? Who we play on Tuesday? We just got to get ready for [New York]. Home court will take care of itself down the road," told reporters after the game.
With no more meetings during the regular season, the next time the two teams could meet, assuming they finish with the top two seeds, is in the Western Conference Finals. So we'll have to wait until May to see if the Rockets can back up the tough talk.