Kawhi's decision - not Zion's first game or an earthquake - rocked the NBA landscape

Kawhi's decision - not Zion's first game or an earthquake - rocked the NBA landscape

LAS VEGAS -- The earth moved in a way few anticipated at the Thomas & Mack Arena on Friday night. 

And it had nothing to do with Zion Williamson’s much-anticipated summer league debut with the New Orleans Pelicans against his former Duke teammate, New York Knicks guard R.J. Barrett. 

It wasn’t the aftershocks of a 7.1 earthquake in Southern California that was felt all the way to Las Vegas, either. 

The NBA landscape took a dramatic and unexpected turn late Friday night/Saturday morning when Kawhi Leonard hitched his lot to the Los Angeles Clippers and he’ll be joined by Paul George, who was acquired by the Clippers via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

The particulars as to what the Thunder received for George, a top-five MVP candidate this past season, are irrelevant. 

More than anything else, Leonard's decision - and his ability to get the Clippers to go out and land Paul George - is an impressive power move by the reigning NBA Finals MVP.

And it certainly is a jab at LeBron James, who was hopeful that Leonard would pick the Lakers over the Clippers and Toronto Raptors, who Leonard led to the franchise's first NBA title last month.

For the second time in the past three years, LeBron James was LeBron James’d by another player. 

Kyrie Irving’s decision to demand a trade out of Cleveland unexpectedly a couple of years ago was very much a LeBron James-like move. 

And Leonard indicating to the Clippers that he would reportedly come only if they traded for Paul George - which they did successfully -  was very much the kind of power move we’ve seen James execute in the past. 

Just when it seemed the Lakers were one Kawhi commitment away from being the best team in the NBA, now, they’re not even the best team in their building. 

And this is why the NBA is the best league in America. 

Because on a night when a transcendent player of Zion Williamson’s caliber plays his first game and has quite a few highlight-worthy plays, it becomes such a minor footnote because Leonard’s decision provided the kind of NBA fireworks we’ve come to expect. 

The aftershocks postponed the New Orleans vs New York game that eventually was won by the Pelicans, the outcome really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. 

Because on this night, Kawhi's long-awaited decision was what really rocked the NBA landscape, delivering aftershocks that will be felt for quite some time. 

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Jayson Tatum gives MVP pick, lists best NBA players at each position

Jayson Tatum gives MVP pick, lists best NBA players at each position

The games have stopped, but the debates certainly haven't.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum killed some time in self-isolation Wednesday night by going on Instagram Live with basketball skills coach Pep Stanciel.

Stanciel first asked Tatum to name the best player in the NBA, and the 22-year-old deferred to his elder: Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

"This is LeBron's 28th year in the league, and he was gonna win MVP," Tatum said.

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Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo actually was the odds-on favorite to repeat as NBA MVP before the league shut down due to coronavirus on March 11.

But Tatum apparently doesn't believe Antetokounmpo deserved MVP last season, either.

"James Harden should have won MVP last year," Tatum said. " ... He definitely should have won back-to-back MVPs."

The Houston Rockets star led the NBA in scoring by a wide margin in 2018-19 (36.1 points per game) but also attempted the most shots and plays a controversial, ball-dominant game.

Still, Tatum thinks James and Harden are the best players at their respective positions right now. Here's the Celtics star's All-NBA starting five, after some prodding from Stanciel:

Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Shooting Guard: James Harden
Small Forward: LeBron James
Power Forward: Anthony Davis
Center: Joel Embiid

It's hard to imagine an All-NBA starting five that doesn't include Antetokounmpo, but this is an otherwise solid list.

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Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard both get honorable mentions here, as Tatum ranked them as the second- and third-best players in the league behind James. (You could argue Durant is a power forward, but maybe his current injury led Tatum to pick Davis in that category.)

Tatum didn't name any current or former Celtics -- You didn't think he'd pick ex-teammate Kyrie Irving at point guard, did you? -- but no Boston player is even in the conversation right now.

Tatum was on a trajectory to change that before the season went on hold, but for now, we'll have to settle for his basketball takes over watching him play.

Classic Celtics: Larry Bird battles Magic Johnson in 1984 NBA Finals Game 7

Classic Celtics: Larry Bird battles Magic Johnson in 1984 NBA Finals Game 7

Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson was one of the best rivalries in sports.

And it all came to a head on June 12, 1984, at Boston Garden.

NBC Sports Boston's "Classic Celtics" series continues Friday night with an all-timer: Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals between the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.

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The 1984 Finals was the first time Bird and Johnson faced off in a championship since battling for the NCAA title in 1979. The series didn't disappoint, going a full seven games with two overtime contests along the way.

Game 7 came down to the wire, too, with Cedric Maxwell playing the role of hero to help the C's earn a 111-102 win and defeat their bitter rival for their 15th NBA title.

Our re-broadcast of Celtics-Lakers Game 7 begins at 7 p.m. ET on Friday and will feature additional commentary from Maxwell, who led all scorers with 24 points.

Here's how to watch:

When: Friday, April 10, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Boston
Streaming: NBCSportsBoston.com and in the MyTeams app

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