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Sources: Raptors ‘increasingly confident’ in Ability to Re-Sign Kawhi Leonard

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Behind the scenes, many Toronto Raptors officials have become increasingly confident in the team’s chances of re-signing Kawhi Leonard this summer, sources tell TSN.

Building a relationship and establishing mutual trust with the enigmatic superstar hasn’t been a linear process. As the season’s unfolded, there have been a few bumps in the road and moments of doubt. But things appear to be trending in the right direction and the timing couldn’t be better, with the playoffs less than three weeks away and the start of free agency two and a half months after that.

Leonard will hit the open market on July 1 as part of a loaded free-agent class that could also include Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker. With several teams clearing cap space in preparation, there won’t be a shortage of suitors for those stars.

Source: Josh Lewenberg of TSN

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Sources: NBA Targeting Pre-Christmas Start, 72-Game Regular Season

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The NBA’s league office informed the Board of Governors on Friday that it is targeting to start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22, three days before Christmas Day, and would like to play a 72-game campaign, sources told The Athletic.

This would mean a return close to the NBA’s normal schedule, significant financial ramifications to start early, a potential finish before the 2021 Summer Olympics, and allow a window for stars to play in the Olympics, sources said. The NBA wants to continue to incorporate the play-in tournament that was utilized in the Orlando restart to determine the eighth seed in the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs, according to sources. ESPN first reported that a Christmas start and playing fewer than 82 games would be discussed on Friday’s call.

The National Basketball Players Association would need to sign off on any plan to start the season on Dec. 22.

Source: Shams Charania of The Athletic

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Sources: Pacers Interested in Gordon Hayward

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Something to keep an eye on once we find out when NBA teams can start making trades: some within the Pacers organization continue to have interest in trading for Celtics’ Gordon Hayward, per SNY sources.

It’s unknown what Boston would want in return for Hayward — or if the club is even open to moving him.

In an NBC Sports podcast in June, the Indianapolis Star noted that Hayward would be a player of interest for the Pacers in the offseason.

Hayward, who starred at Butler, can become a free agent by opting out of the final year of his deal, worth roughly $34 million. It’s hard to see Hayward opting out of his deal without the assurance of a long-term extension in place.

Source: Ian Begley of SNY.tv

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Sources: Warriors Work Out Deni Avdija

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Steve Kerr and other members of the Warriors organization worked out Maccabi Tel Aviv prospect Deni Avdija on Thursday morning in Atlanta, according to sources. By all accounts, it was a positive get together, one in which the 19-year-old Israeli impressed observers. Not only did Avdija perform well in the workouts, but Warriors officials were blown away after meeting with him. The universal takeaway was that he’s a “great kid” with an immense work ethic.

Source: Ethan Strauss of The Athletic

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