Kevin Durant

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Hachimura, Nets, Hawks, Magic

Although Ben Simmons has reported to the Sixers and head coach Doc Rivers has said he assumes the three-time All-Star plans to suit up and play for the team, we still don’t know when that will happen or what version of Simmons the club will get, writes Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com.

One source who spoke to Neubeck described Simmons as “going through the motions” during his individual workouts this week, though that source said things have improved each day since the 25-year-old’s return. The expectation is that Simmons will clear the health and safety protocols soon, but he’s considered “doubtful” to play in Friday’s preseason finale.

Within Neubeck’s report, he notes that the Sixers have shown little interest in a Pacers trade package that includes Malcolm Brogdon and/or Caris LeVert. The 76ers have been focused on acquiring a star, since trading Simmons for multiple “good” players isn’t something they believe will improve their title odds or increase their chances of acquiring another impact player down the road, Neubeck explains.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura remains in the health and safety protocols after recently reporting to the team, and he may miss some time at the beginning of the regular season as he gets back up to speed and adjusts to a new playbook and coaching staff, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I don’t think (him catching up) is way down the line,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We already have some edits that we’ll send to him. Obviously, when he’s ready we’ll spend some time away from the court to try to help him get back up to speed. That in itself is going to take some time.”
  • Nets forward Kevin Durant admitted to reporters on Thursday that Kyrie Irving‘s absence is not an “ideal” situation and said he’d rather be playing alongside his friend this season. However, Durant added that he’s confident “things will work out the best for both parties” and said he’s not upset about the situation. “What is being mad going to do?” Durant said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We are not going to change his mind, know what I’m saying? We’ll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do.”
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash plans to lean on the team’s depth to replace Kyrie Irving, rather than putting that responsibility on one player, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Bruce Brown and Patty Mills are among the obvious candidates for increased roles.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic liked the Hawks‘ offseason moves and is optimistic about the club’s chances of avoiding regression in 2021/22, projecting them to win 50 games and a playoff series. Predictably, Hollinger is far less bullish on the Magic, forecasting a 21-win season and a last-place finish in the East for Orlando.

Warriors Notes: Bradley, Payton, Lee, Green, Myers, Wiseman

With just one preseason game left on the Warriors‘ schedule, they may be down to three choices for their 15th roster spot, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic: Avery Bradley, Gary Payton II, or luxury tax savings.

As Slater outlines, Bradley looked like the frontrunner early in the fall, but he hasn’t wowed the team during the preseason, leaving the door open for Payton to push for a roster spot following his return from hernia surgery. Payton had a strong debut in Tuesday’s contest vs. the Lakers, scoring 12 points and providing energy and solid defense off the bench. He’ll have another opportunity in Friday’s preseason finale vs. Portland to make a case to stick around.

The Warriors have just 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, since swingman Damion Lee only has a partial guarantee, so technically two roster spots could be up for grabs. But Lee showed on Tuesday why he has been penciled into that 14th spot, as he put up 16 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes of action as a starter.

“He’s had a great camp, and he’s a guy on our team who we kind of take for granted,” Kerr said of Lee, per Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s such a pro. He’s such a rock-solid player. He’s ready every night, whether I play him 20 minutes or whether I don’t play him at all. He’s always prepared.”

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Appearing on SiriusXM NBA Radio (video link), Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers explained why he didn’t feel the need to talk to Draymond Green about comments Green made on a podcast over the summer. Green said in the podcast that the front office mishandled its response to his on-court confrontation with Kevin Durant during KD’s last season in Golden State. “He’s allowed to feel how he feels about that and so is Kevin,” Myers said. “I’ve been through too much with him. I’ve watched that guy win three championships with us. I can’t get upset about (his comments) — I just won’t. … Him and Kevin, the good they’ve done for me and our franchise way outweighs anything like that.”
  • Once James Wiseman gets healthy, the Warriors don’t intend to shuffle him back and forth between the NBA and G League, Slater writes for The Athletic. The team might send Wiseman to Santa Cruz as he gets back up to speed, but once he gets recalled to the NBA, the plan is for him to stay there, according to Slater, whose article takes an in-depth look at assistant coach Dejan Milojević‘s developmental plan for the young center.
  • The 20-year-old Wiseman is only the third-youngest player on a roster that includes a pair of teenagers, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer explores the challenge Golden State will face as it tries to focus on winning games while also developing its young lottery picks.
  • Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia, who both have roles in the Warriors’ basketball operations department, spoke to team broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald about how their experiences as players in Golden State made it an easy decision to rejoin the franchise once their playing careers ended.
  • In case you missed it, we published our recap of the Warriors’ offseason on Wednesday night.

Latest On Kyrie Irving

After issuing a press release on Tuesday announcing that Kyrie Irving won’t practice or play for the Nets until he can be a “full participant,” general manager Sean Marks spoke to reporters to provide more details on the team’s decision, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic write.

“We looked at everything. When you make a decision like this, it’s one that you don’t want to do hastily,” Marks said, per Bontemps. “… I think we all know what our objective is this year and how this, a decision like this, may be able to (impact) that ultimate objective. They are never easy decisions, but at the end of the day, I think we are looking at putting a group of people that are going to be able to participate fully and that is what this comes down to. And we’re not looking for partners that are going to be half time.

“I don’t think that would be fair to not only the team and staff and ownership and fans, but to be quite frank, not fair on Kyrie either when you are putting somebody out there that potentially can’t get the right ramp-ups and right buildups and so forth and look as good as he or the team should under a different set of circumstances. That is why this decision was ultimately made.”

Asked if Nets stars James Harden and Kevin Durant had a say in the decision to sideline Irving, Marks said that “everyone” in the organization was kept in the loop about the situation, but stressed that he and team owner Joe Tsai made the final call.

“Ultimately, this decision was Joe Tsai and myself, and this decision came down to what we felt was the right move for the organization at this time,” Marks said.

Irving is the only player on the Nets who remains unvaccinated against COVID-19. A New York City executive order requires individuals who work in the city to have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine in order to enter indoor venues such as Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.

The NBA has stated that players who are ineligible to play in games due to local vaccine mandates will lose 1/91.6th of their salary for each game they miss. While the NBPA has pushed back against the league’s interpretation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the expectation is that Irving’s stance will cost him $381K per game over the course of 43 games (41 in Brooklyn, plus two at MSG), for a total of nearly $16.4MM in lost salary.

Marks confirmed on Tuesday that Irving will only be docked salary for games in New York. As former Celtics and Suns executive Ryan McDonough explains (via Twitter), the decision to continue paying Irving for road games neutralizes Kyrie’s ability to involve the NBPA and file a grievance.

Here’s more on Irving:

  • As of now, Irving has no plans to be vaccinated and there’s no indication New York City’s policy on unvaccinated individuals will change any time soon, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. According to Charania, rival teams think Brooklyn would be open to a “significant” trade offer for Irving, but that kind of offer probably won’t be on the table, given that it’s unclear how willing Kyrie would be to join another team.
  • Executives polled by Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports believe an Irving trade is possible, but only under “special circumstances,” since there are concerns he could retire if he’s dealt. “I don’t know if I’d touch him, but you have to look at it, for the sake of your team,” one exec told Goodwill.
  • Head coach Steve Nash told reporters today that he supports the Nets’ decision on Irving, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Nash said he’d love to have Irving back with the team if the situation changes, but believes it would have been a “tenuous situation” to have a player with the team off and on.
  • Harden said he respects Irving’s stance and would love to have him back in the lineup, but acknowledged that the Nets will benefit from knowing who will be available on a night-to-night basis (Twitter link via Begley).

New York Notes: Durant, Irving, Harden, Burks, Fournier

Kevin Durant‘s latest comments on Kyrie Irving sounded like a plea for the Nets All-Star point guard to get vaccinated and rejoin the team for the entire season, as Nets Videos relays (Twitter link).

“We want him here for the whole thing,” Durant said. “We want him here for games, home games, practices, away games, shootarounds all of it. Hopefully, we can figure this thing out.”

The latest development on the Irving saga came Friday, when the team was informed that he could practice with the team but not play in home games.

We have more from the New York City teams:

  • Nets guard James Harden struggled in his preseason debut on Friday against Milwaukee, scoring eight points and committing four turnovers. Harden said it was an odd experience after missing playoff games and spending most of the offseason recovering from a hamstring strain, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “Practice is different obviously, but just being on the court and having to move felt weird. But I’ll get adjusted to it,” he said.
  • Alec Burks‘ ability to make an immediate impact on a game is a luxury for Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. “We were in desperate need of shooting, so he provided shot-making, playmaking,” Thibodeau said. “He can go off the dribble, can play three positions, and he can function as a starter or a guy off the bench. As soon as you put him in the game, he’s ready to go.” Burks re-signed with the Knicks in August on a three-year, $30MM pact.
  • Knicks wing Evan Fournier was added mainly to bring some offensive punch but he vows to not be a defensive liability, Botte relays in a separate story. “I consider myself a guy that competes really hard, so I’m not concerned about the defense at all,” he said. “Even as a unit, we’re going to be good defensively.” Fournier was acquired in a sign-and-trade from Boston on a four-year deal worth up to $78MM.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Irving, Quickley, Stevens, Joe

Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant is trying to stay optimistic as the Kyrie Irving situation drags on, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. Irving can’t practice at the team’s facility and will have to miss more than half of its games unless he changes his mind and gets vaccinated. Durant believes Irving will eventually rejoin his teammates.

“I’m envisioning Kyrie being a part of our team,” Durant said. “Maybe I’m just naïve, but that is just how I feel. But I think everybody here has that confidence in themselves, in our group, that if we keep building, we can do something special.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks have a crowded backcourt but second-year guard Immanuel Quickley remains part of the team’s plans. Coach Tom Thibodeau believes he can play Quickley in a number of different guard combinations, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. “The great value with (Quickley) is that he plays with Derrick (Rose) and Alec (Burks), and so really the point (guard) is interchangeable with those guys. They move the ball and they make plays for each other real well,” Thibodeau said. “So, oftentimes, Quickley will bring it up. Derrick will bring it up. Alec could bring it up or we’ll get into dribble-handoffs. … We’re gonna fly around.”
  • Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens doesn’t miss the daily grind of being the head coach, he told A. Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press. “I haven’t had to worry about practice plan, game plan, none of that,” said Stevens. “I’ve enjoyed watching Ime (Udoka) put the team together and figure out how he wants to play, who compliments who, and all those things that go into that.”
  • Sixers second-year guard Isaiah Joe is angling for playing time and he’s gotten off to a good start in the preseason, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. He had 18 points — including four 3-pointers — three rebounds and three steals against the Raptors. “We’ve got to get him on the floor more is what I keep telling our coaches,” coach Doc Rivers said, “because those 10 guys [in the rotation] are playing so much. … I told [Joe], I don’t care what unit you’re on, just keep going back and forth.”

New York Notes: Harden, Durant, Irving, Gibson

Nets owner Joe Tsai is hopeful that James Harden will finish his career in Brooklyn, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Harden has yet to sign an extension but Tsai believes Harden is in it for the long-term. “The way I look at it is he’s already said I want to play and finish my career in Brooklyn: He’s actually said that. And our job is to make sure that he continues to feel that way,” Tsai said. “Obviously, if we win a championship and also have the chance to win multiple championships down the road, that’s going to be even more convincing, more compelling.“

We have more from the New York City teams:

  • Nets perennial All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who has already signed a four-year extension, says he’s still evolving as a player and is focused on being as good as ever, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. “I really feel like I have been growing every single day and I am starting to understand the game a little bit more,” Durant said. “I kind of simplified it for myself. I try not to chase anything outside of just being the best that I can be on the floor … Yeah, it’s made me at ease a little bit.”
  • While Tsai respects Kyrie Irving‘s feelings regarding his reluctance to be vaccinated, he wants to remind his star point guard about the team’s ultimate aim, Lewis writes. “What is our goal this year? What’s our purpose this year? It’s very, very clear: Win a championship. And the championship team needs to have everybody pulling the same direction,” Tsai said. “So, I hope to see Kyrie play fully and win a championship together with everybody else, with all his teammates. That’s the best outcome for everybody.”
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is very happy Taj Gibson re-signed with the team on a two-year, $10.1MM deal, as Mark Sanchez of the New York Post notes. “Whether he’s [in or] not in the rotation, he’s practicing hard, helping his teammates, helping the team any way he can,” Thibodeau said. “If you have to play him off the bench, he can handle that. If you want to plug him in as a starter, he can handle that. He’s played two positions his entire career. He’s invaluable to us.”

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Walker, Bacon, Offseason

The Knicks are open to signing Mitchell Robinson to a contract extension before the 2021/22 season begins, “as long as it’s not crazy,” a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. Robinson, who is one of the Knicks’ longest-tenured players, is entering a contract year and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022 if he doesn’t sign a new deal before then.

As Berman notes, there are reasons both sides may want to wait on an extension. Robinson is coming off a season in which he suffered a broken hand and broken foot, so the Knicks might want to see him at full health again before making a major investment. The team’s multiyear commitment to Nerlens Noel in free agency also reduces the urgency to lock up Robinson.

Robinson, meanwhile, could significantly boost his stock in the coming months if he shows he’s back to 100% health and continues to improve on both ends of the court. For now, Berman says, league insiders consider the big man’s value to be around the mid-level or slightly higher. Berman suggests $44MM over four years could be a fair price for both sides.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • During his introductory press conference last week, Kemba Walker said he came “pretty close” to signing with the Knicks as a free agent in 2019 before heading to Boston instead. A source tells Berman that Walker had been interested in teaming up with Kevin Durant for the Knicks, but Durant – of course – chose to go to Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving instead. Berman says the Knicks and Walker decided at that point that a union wouldn’t make sense without another star on board.
  • According to Berman, multiple sources believe the Knicks decided to add Dwayne Bacon to their roster due to a recommendation from his former coach Steve Clifford, who is close with Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau. However, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv noted last week (via Twitter), Bacon is on an Exhibit 10 contract, so he’s no lock to make the regular season roster.
  • In his ranking of all 30 teams’ offseason moves, David Aldridge of The Athletic places the Knicks at No. 13, praising the team’s signing of Walker but arguing that losing Reggie Bullock will hurt.

Pacific Notes: Kerr, Buss, Clippers, Durant, Green

The mantra for the Warriors this coming season appears to be “balance,” writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. According to Johnson, the way the team has re-balanced through its veteran signings and draft class is one of the main things that excites head coach Steve Kerr coming into the season.

I think this year’s team will offer a much better mix of mentors and veterans to go along with those young guys,” Kerr said on the latest episode of Dubs Talk podcast. “… It’s real exciting to think of the structure of the team and the balance and what we can accomplish.”

After two straight years of missing the playoffs, Kerr says he feels the team is back to a level where it can compete every night, especially once star Klay Thompson returns from his two-year hiatus due to ACL and Achilles injuries.

It’s really hard to gauge where we are against the rest of the Western Conference,” Kerr said. “Obviously there’s a lot of great teams. We haven’t even had a practice to put the group together. But I’m very excited about the potential.”

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently sat down with Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. In the interview, she describes why the legacy of her father’s Showtime Lakers impels her to build not just a great basketball team, but a stylish one. She talks about why she doesn’t like the play-in tournament, why Kobe Bryant‘s 20-year run with a single team is unlikely to be repeated, and says “our fans are going to be just cuckoo for (Russell Westbrook), are going to be so happy that he’s here.
  • The Clippers may not have shaken up their roster in a major way, but Summer League provided some reasons for excitement, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. No. 51 pick Brandon Boston outperformed expectations, knocking down shots and creating off the dribble, No. 33 pick Jason Preston overcame a rough start to show his ability to orchestrate the offense and get into the paint, while hyper-athletic wings Jay Scrubb and Keon Johnson both showcased why they’re intriguing talents while also laying bare the flaws that could keep them off the floor early on.
  • In a much-discussed interview with Bleacher Report, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green explored the last year of their time together with the Warriors, as well as their infamous blow-up in November of 2018. As Nick Friedell of ESPN explores, Durant and Green blamed head coach Steve Kerr and president of basketball operations Bob Myers for mishandling the response to that dust-up. “Y’all are about to f— this up,” Green said he told the Warriors front office. “I said, ‘The only person that can make this right is me and (Durant). And there is nothing that y’all can do, and y’all are going to f— this up.’ And in my opinion, they f—ed it up.” In response, Durant said, “I think so too.”

Draymond Green, Kevin Durant Discuss Experience As Warriors Teammates

Tensions between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant were one of the subplots of Durant’s final season with the Warriors, and Bleacher Report’s “Chips” is giving viewers a chance to hear them discuss that situation, writes Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Green and Durant had a public confrontation early in that season as Golden State was aiming for its third consecutive title. Green had accused Durant of looking ahead to his next destination in free agency, which he brings up in their “Chips” exchange.

“In my mind, after Year 2, you were over it,” Green tells Durant. “You were onto the next thing, but we had the opportunity to three-peat. And in my mind, what brought you back in year three was just the opportunity to three-peat, but it didn’t feel right for you no more.”

Durant admits there was a perception in his final year that he didn’t enjoy being part of the Warriors. He explains that he was “happy-go-lucky” during his time with the Thunder, but his approach changed when he came to Golden State and saw a clear path to winning titles.

“I knew exactly what my role was and I locked on it with so much focus and determination to not f–k around every day,” Durant said. “And you’ve seen it. From workouts to practices, shootaround, film, and it made people outside look at me like, ‘Hold on, is he enjoying this?’ When I dive into something like that, with that level of focus, I don’t want to be anywhere else in life. That’s the most enjoyable experience I ever had after that first one.

“I played every game, I went hard every day, I cared about every matchup no matter who was on the floor, just my look didn’t feel as open or energetic as before. But I like that. I like that I was closed off and focused on my work.”

Durant and Green have patched up their differences to the point where they can discuss the past without getting heated. They also reunited as teammates to win a gold medal during this year’s Olympics.

Durant said his main regret is not being open enough about his situation as the free agency rumors intensified. Outsiders may believe his time with the Warriors ended bitterly, but he says he enjoyed being part of an organization that was able to compete for a title every year.

“I maybe should have communicated that better to the people who were interested in knowing what I was going through,” Durant said. “But I had the most fun locking in and completing the task because I knew we were going to lock in every night, and it’s rare to get to that point as an NBA player. I just tried to focus in and stay in the moment more than anything.”

New York Notes: Knight, Durant, Vildoza, Walker

Former lottery pick Brandon Knight is trying to work his way back into the NBA with the Nets‘ Summer League team, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Knight’s career was derailed by knee injuries, and he hasn’t played in the NBA since splitting 25 games with the Cavaliers and Pistons in 2019/20.

Knight worked out for the Bucks in March, but Milwaukee decided against signing him. The 29-year-old says his knees are no longer an issue and he’s eager to show that he still has an NBA future.

“The narrative of my knees, that I’m not healthy, that’s not right,” Knight said. “So for me, the narrative is just to show that I’m healthy. I’m ready to play. And I’m here. Most importantly, I’m here to serve these young guys. Summer league is not about me. … My goal is to serve to serve these young guys, give them wisdom, and try to help them and be a servant in any place that I can be.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Nets star Kevin Durant was named MVP of the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament, FIBA announced in a press release. He capped off a brilliant performance with 29 points in the gold medal game against France. Australia’s Patty Mills, who agreed to a two-year deal with Brooklyn in free agency, was named to the all-tournament team.
  • The Knicks will get their first look at Luca Vildoza when Summer League play starts today, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Argentinian point guard signed a four-year, non-guaranteed contract in May, but he wasn’t used in any games. Vildoza’s future with New York seems less certain after the team drafted point guards Miles McBride and Rokas Jokubaitis, Berman adds. “I’m trying to work hard. I’m trying to show myself,” said Vildoza, who just returned from the Olympics. “I just want to show who I am. If after that, I can’t get onto the team, that’s OK. At least I gave everything.’’
  • The Knicks‘ offseason appears successful, but there are some risks involved, states Steve Popper of Newsday. The most significant one involves whether Kemba Walker‘s knee can hold up for an entire season.