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Eastern Conference

Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard Becomes First Player to Win Finals MVP in Both Conferences

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The Toronto Raptors took home their first NBA Championship on Thursday night when they beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena to win the NBA Finals 4-2.

With the win, Raptors star Kawhi Leonard was awarded the Bill Russell trophy, given to the Finals MVP, marking his second trophy and making him the first player in NBA history to win the award in both conferences.

“This is what I play basketball for,” Leonard said, according to ESPN. “This is what I work out for.”

“I think he’s the best two-way basketball player in the NBA,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said of Leonard. “He just goes. You know, I’ve seen some stuff from him this year that you just say, ‘Wow.’ You do. You say, ‘Wow.’ You appreciate the work that he’s put in. He works extremely hard at his game and works extremely hard on his body. And he loves this basketball thing. Loves it.”

Leonard averaged 28.5 points per game on 43 percent shooting in the NBA Finals, playing stellar defense as well.

Leonard took home NBA Finals honors back in 2014 when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs team that knocked off the Miami Hear super-team led by LeBron James, who he played tough defense on throughout.

“Without a doubt, the best thing about this thing is that somehow I wound up on the sideline getting to watch this guy play up close,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who won an NBA title in his first season as a head coach in the league. “It’s really cool.”

Leonard scored 732 points in the 2019 postseason, which ranks as third-most in NBA history behind Michael Jordan (who scored 759 in 1992) and LeBron James (who scored 748 in 2018).

“I just kept working hard, working hard, and had my mind set on this goal right here,” Leonard said. “I came to a team, a new coast — that mindset was the same as mine, trying to get that Larry [O’Brien championship] trophy there. And this is what I play basketball for; this is what I work out for all summer [and] during the season. And I’m happy that my hard work paid off.”

The Raptors now have to convince Leonard, who is set to enter free agency, to stay with the team for the long-term.

“I’m ’bout to enjoy this with my teammates and coaches, and I’ll think about that later,” Leonard said.

Eastern Conference

76ers, Ben Simmons Agree to Contract Extension

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Ben Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons have agreed to a five-year, $170 million contract, according to Simmons’ agent Rick Paul, via The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The Sixers had extended a max contract offer to Simmons at the start of free agency, so the deal had been on the horizon for a while.

Simmons, 22, has been a franchise cornerstone for the Sixers, and averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game for Philadelphia last season.

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Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavs Expected to Waive and Stretch J.R. Smith

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to waive guard J.R. Smith after failing to find a suitable trade, according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.

According to Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, the Cavs plan to stretch his contract over the next three years.

Smith played in only 11 games during the 2018-19 season as the Cavs veered towards a youth movement.

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Eastern Conference

76ers’ Re-Sign Mike Scott

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Mike Scott

The Philadelphia 76ers have re-signed Mike Scott to a two-year, $9.8 million deal, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

“Mike epitomizes what Philadelphia loves – a fierce competitor with a tireless work ethic, who’s driven by the desire to win,” Sixers’ general manager Elton Brand said in a statement. “His toughness, grit and passion are palpable, as the city of Philadelphia has come to know. We are thrilled to have Mike back with the 76ers.”

Scott was a key reserve player for the 76ers last year, averaging 7.8 points per game.

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