Western Rumors: Durant, Cauley-Stein, Gasol

Kevin Durant is irritated by the notion that the Thunder aren’t serious title contenders, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com. The media generally considers three teams — the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers — as the only ones that can win the championship this season, Young adds, and Durant feels his team is being overlooked. “Man, the [media and experts are] always trying to nitpick us,” Durant told Young. “I mean, they don’t like us. They don’t like how Russell [Westbrook] talks to the media, they don’t like how I talk to the media. So obviously, yeah, they’re not going to give us the benefit of the doubt. … They don’t mean nothing, the critics. Their opinions, everybody has one, but we don’t really care about them. Every day we’re just going to keep grinding this thing out. We feel like we can compete with anybody.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Willie Cauley-Stein is meshing well with DeMarcus Cousins and that’s why the Kings rookie center has returned to the starting lineup, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. Cauley-Stein’s defensive presence allows Cousins to play power forward and moves Rudy Gay to his natural small forward spot, giving the Kings an imposing frontcourt, Jones adds. Cauley-Stein missed two games with a finger injury. “It takes a load off me,” Cousins told Jones. “I’ve got a huge load a lot of games, and having Willie makes it easier and helps me out so much. I think he’s very seasoned on the defensive end for a rookie. He has the potential to be a very good player in this league, and I’m glad to have him back.”
  • Combo forward Kostas Papanikolaou,  who was caught off-guard by the Nuggets waiving him earlier this month, has attracted the interest of two Euroleague powers from Greece, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, according to Sportando via Sport24. Panathinaikos has made an offer through June 2018 while the Olympiacos offer runs through June 2017, the story continues. FC Barcelona holds Papanikolaou’s European rights and would have a week to match if he agrees to either offer, the story adds.
  • Marc Gasol‘s offensive numbers are down this season and Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger believes his veteran center looks worn down, he told Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Memphis’ lack of frontcourt depth has made it difficult for Joerger to reduce Gasol’s minutes. “He’s exhausted,” Joerger told Edmiston. “His legs are tired. He carries a heavy load and he’s exhausted. He won’t say it, but someone who’s been around him as much as I have, it looks to be that he’s banged up and he’s played too many minutes. It’s just what we’ve had to do; I don’t have a lot of options.” Gasol is shooting a career-low 44.5% from the field.
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