Western Notes: Durant, Upshaw, Ezeli

The pursuit of Kevin Durant next summer is shaping up as the “biggest non-LeBron free agency the NBA has ever seen,” writes Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, but it doesn’t come without doubts. The crack that Durant told Ding that he had in one of the bones in his right foot was an “unthinkable” recurrence of an earlier break, orthopedic surgeon Robert Klapper said to Ding. Klapper nonetheless expressed confidence that the bone will hold together after the latest surgery, and Durant is far from worried, the former MVP must proceed with caution, Ding opines. Still, Durant believes he’s the league’s best player, as he told Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (Twitter link), and that confidence will be a boon for the Thunder, at least for this coming season, writes The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson. While we wait to see whether Durant or LeBron James emerges as the most sought-after free agent of the 2016 class, here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Undrafted center Robert Upshaw reportedly reached an agreement with the Lakers a month ago, but Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times hears that he’s merely a possibility for the team, which has no immediate plans to sign him, Pincus adds (Twitter link). GM Mitch Kupchak said late last month that he and Upshaw’s agent, Bill Duffy, were talking but didn’t confirm that the sides had a deal and downplayed any on-court impact that Upshaw might make for the team this season.
  • Eric Saar of Basketball Insiders compares rookie scale extension candidate Festus Ezeli to Alexis Ajinca, who re-signed with the Pelicans last month for about $19.5MM over four years. Saar, whose piece looks at extension candidates around the NBA, figures Ezeli will wind up with annual salaries of around $5MM. Warriors GM Bob Myers indicated recently that he’d consider an extension for the backup center, but Saar thinks Golden State should wait for him to hit restricted free agency next summer.
  • Injuries had much to do with the struggles of the league-worst Timberwolves last season, argues fellow Basketball Insiders scribe Ben Dowsett, who names Minnesota one of three under-the-radar teams in the Western Conference. The Wolves have added No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns and went after veterans this summer, re-signing Kevin Garnett and adding Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince.
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