Kevin Durant

Dion Waiters Discusses Heat, Thunder, Pat Riley

Dion Waiters can become a free agent this offseason by turning down his player option for next season. Even if he chooses that route, he hopes to return to Miami. “Hopefully, we found a home down here,” Waiter writes on The Players’ Tribune.

The Philadelphia native didn’t expect to sign with the Heat last summer. He was a free agent and heard that Miami was interested, but wasn’t sold on the fit. “I wasn’t really seeing it at first. Nothing against the Heat, but I didn’t know how I’d fit there,” Waiters writes. “Then I met Pat Riley.”

Waiters explains how Riley spoke with him about life and not just basketball during a free agent meeting. Riley also told him that if he came to Miami, the organization would get him in “world-class shape.” Waiters said he didn’t know it at the time, but now he realizes that taking the meeting with the Heat president was the best thing that happened to his basketball career. He writes:

When Pat said “world-class shape,” I thought it sounded cool, but in my head, I was like, Yeah, I got this. I’m in world-class shape. You already know. So I show up for camp, and after one week, my body is shot. I was damn near throwing up in trash cans like in the movies. And I realized, You know what? Pat was not just talking that smooth talk. This Heat thing is the real deal.

Miami came up one game short of making the playoffs after starting the season with a record of 11-30. Waiters believes that the Heat could have done serious damage as an eighth seed in the east, but regardless, he feels the season was special.

The Syracuse product also discusses how he enjoyed competing with Kevin Durant in practice and how he loved his Thunder team during the 2015/16 season. Waiters thought he was going to return to Oklahoma City after the team lost in the Western Conference Finals. “I genuinely thought I was going to be back in OKC this season, and we were going to make another run at it. But things didn’t work out that way, because basketball is a business,” he writes.

Waiters’ article is one of the publication’s best pieces and it’s worth a read. In addition to the aforementioned, he discusses his life growing up in Philadelphia, his younger basketball days, and his public persona, which includes the notion that he thinks he’s the best on the court and that he has irrational confidence.

“Listen, now you know where I’m from. Picture yourself walking into a South Philly playground at 12 years old, with [grown] men, bleachers packed with people, trying to get a run in.” Waiters writes. “You think you can survive in Philly without irrational confidence?”

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Durant, Draft

The Blazers made the playoffs this season, but Damian Lillard doesn’t consider that a success, as Chris Haynes of relays.

“We got tested, and I think we answered the bell,” the point guard said. “I felt like we showed our true colors by the way we fought. But I wouldn’t say successful. I think it was growth. A year of growth for us.”

The Warriors swept the Blazers in the opening round of the playoffs and Lillard understands that his team needs to beat Golden State if it’s going to win the Western Conference.

“You also got to understand that if you ever want to get out of the West, you’re going to have to go through them,” Lillard said. “And for me, I understand that’s what it is. It’s always been that way in the NBA. I think about when the Pistons were just beating up on [Michael] Jordan. [They] were just kicking his butt every year, and he had to get through them if he wanted to get to where he wanted to get to. That’s just what it is.

“[The Warriors are] going to be there. They’re going to be there every year. We have to look at that and understand that we got to be better. We have to go get better, and come back better as a group if we want to move past them.”

Here’s more from Portland:

  • Kevin Durant believes the Blazers are a few pieces away from contending for the conference’s crown, as Haynes passes along in the same piece. “I think they want somebody on the wing that can take the pressure off those two guards [C.J. McCollum and Lillard], somebody that’s big for their position. But they’re right there, man,” Durant said.
  • Breaking up McCollum and Lillard might be the only way the Blazers bring home the title, Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer contends. The scribe sees parallels in Portland’s current team and Golden State’s in 2012. The Warriors knew Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry couldn’t defend opposing backcourts at a top level and the team decided to trade Ellis away.
  • The Blazers acquired the No. 20 overall pick in the upcoming draft in the Jusuf Nurkic deal and that selection could be more important than the center, O’Connor argues in the same piece. Portland needs to find another piece to take the team from good to great and without cap space, the team will likely need to add that player through the draft. In addition to No. 20, the franchise also owns the No. 15 and No. 26 overall picks.

Kevin Durant To Play In Game 4

Kevin Durant will play in tonight’s matchup against the Blazers, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post tweets. Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes will remain sidelined.

Golden State will be without Steve Kerr as well. Kerr is experiencing health issues which stem from the back surgery he underwent in 2015. He and Durant both missed the Warriors’ Game 3 win on Saturday.

Durant missed 22 games this season, including the two games he was sidelined for in this series. In his first postseason game with the Warriors last weekend, Durant scored 32 points and pulled down 11 boards before exiting the game with a calf injury.

Kevin Durant Won’t Play In Game 3

The Warriors will hold Kevin Durant out of tonight’s contest as he recovers from a calf injury, Marc Stein of tweets.  Durant missed Game 2 against the Blazers with the same ailment and at the time, Tim Kawakami of The Bay Area News Groups reported that the small forward could miss Game 3 as well.

Durant suffered the injury in the opening game of the series. He scored 32 points in that contest but needed to ice his leg toward the end of the game.

Golden State has gone 17-4 without Durant in the lineup this season, which includes the team’s win over Portland last Wednesday. Steve Kerr will also miss tonight’s tilt and Mike Brown will coach in his place.

Kevin Durant Won’t Play In Game 2

Kevin Durant has been ruled out for Game 2 against the Blazers, Marc Stein of reports (Twitter link). Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) reported earlier today that Durant’s status for tonight’s tilt was in question.

The small-forward has a strained left calf and he didn’t participate in the Warriors’ shootaround earlier today, as Stein relays in a full-length piece. A source told Stein that Golden State was considering having Durant sit so he could have a full five days rest before playing in Game 3. However, Tim Kawakami of The Bay Area News Groups tweets that Durant may miss that game as well.

The 2013/14 MVP scored 32 points in Sunday’s win over Portland, though he was seen with ice on his left leg near the end of the contest. Golden State went 16-4 with Durant sidelined this season.

And-Ones: Nurkic, Durant, R. Allen, W. Bynum

The Trail Blazers and Warriors will play Game 2 of their series on Wednesday night, and both sides may be missing a key player. Jusuf Nurkic, who continues to recover from a fractured leg, announced today that he won’t play in Game 2 for the Blazers, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Kevin Durant, who recently returned from a knee injury, is now battling a left calf strain and was listed as questionable on the Warriors’ injury report today (Twitter link).

As we wait to see if Durant is able to give it a go for Golden State, let’s round up a few odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • Appearing over the weekend on ESPN’s The Jump, Ray Allen was asked about why he hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2013/14 season, and explained that contract offers he received since then wouldn’t have given him a chance to have a real role (link via Adam London of NESN). “Most of the inquiries I have received were how ready am I to accept my role as a veteran and sit on the bench and mentor the young guys,” Allen said. “I’d love to do that, it comes naturally to me, but I do want to play.”
  • Veteran point guard Will Bynum has reached a deal to play for Luoyang in China this summer, according to 24/7 Basketball (Twitter link). Bynum, who has had multiple stints in China, played with the Pistons for several seasons in the NBA.
  • Canton Charge swingman John Holland – who has spent time with the Celtics and Cavaliers – is also headed to China, having agreed to a contract with the Beijing Eastern Ducks, Sam Amico of confirms. International basketball journalist David Pick first reported (via Twitter) that Holland was finalizing a deal with the Chinese club.
  • The Maine Red Claws and Raptors 905 are currently battling for the right to advance to the D-League Finals, and each team saw a key contributor take home a major award within the past few days. 2016 Celtics second-rounder Abdel Nader was the D-League’s Rookie of the Year, while Edy Tavares, who spent most of the season with the Raptors‘ affiliate, was named the NBADL Defensive Player of the Year. Tavares is now on the Cavaliers‘ roster, having been signed on the last day of the regular season.

Andre Iguodala Likely To Remain With Warriors

Andre Iguodala will be a free agent this offseason, but he’s unlikely to leave Golden State, according to Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group. A source tells the scribe that the real question is how many years will Iguodala’s next deal with the Warriors run.

A new contract for Iguodala will have to wait until other dominos fall in the Bay Area this offseason. The Warriors could face cap issues as they try to re-sign Kevin Durant. Kawakami notes that they would have to get creative in order to open up the necessary cap space for a Durant max deal and those efforts may include renouncing the rights to Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Taking that route would forfeit Iguodala’s Bird Rights, something that would limit the amount they can offer the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.

If Durant is willing to take merely a 20% raise on his 2016/17 salary, the team would not have to fit him into cap space and they could retain the bird rights of its other players, Kawakami notes. Durant could sign another two-year deal with a starting salary of approximately $31.8MM, which would contain another opt-out after the first season. That amount would come in roughly $4MM less than the maximum he could receive, so it’s not a given that the team takes this path.

Durant doesn’t plan on leaving Golden State and he hasn’t given much thought to his contract situation. Regardless of what happens with his option this summer, he wants the team to stay together.

“I haven’t thought about it, but obviously you want to keep this group together,” Durant said. “We want to see how far we can go with this thing. I’m sure once the season’s over with, we’ll figure that stuff out everybody. I’m sure it’ll all work out for the best.”

Kawakami adds that Golden State’s plan all along was to keep this core together for years to come and the franchise won’t change course anytime soon.

Durant Has No Plans To Leave Warriors

After hosting potential suitors at the Hamptons last summer, don’t expect a repeat performance from Kevin Durant in free agency this year.

Appearing on the Warriors Plus-Minus podcast, Durant said staying in Golden State will be an easy decision, relays host Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News.

“Obviously I’m thinking about the playoffs right now,” Durant said. “Haven’t even thought about [free agency] that much. But I don’t plan on going anywhere else.”

Durant rocked the NBA last July 4th when he announced that he was leaving Oklahoma City to join the Warriors. The two-year contract he signed contained a player option that gives him the freedom to negotiate an even larger deal this offseason.

Durant is eligible for a max contract starting at about $36MM for 2017/18. However, the Warriors don’t have his Bird rights because they just signed him a year ago, so much of that salary would have to come from cap space. To make that happen, Golden State would have to renounce Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

Kawakami notes that if Durant were to agree to a 20% raise, it would bump his salary from $26.5MM to $31.8MM without draining cap room. The team does have Bird rights on Iguodala and Livingston, so both could subsequently be retained without affecting the cap.

One possibility for Durant is another two-year deal with a player option for next summer, which creates the opportunity for an even larger contract starting with 2018/19.

“Like I said I haven’t thought about it, but obviously you want to keep this group together,” Durant said when asked about that possibility. “We want to see how far we can go with this thing. I’m sure once the season’s over with, we’ll figure that stuff out, everybody. I’m sure it’ll all work out for the best.”

Durant added that he is comfortable with his decision to come to the Bay Area, and he believes it’s the “perfect place” for him to play.

Warriors Notes: Durant, Barnes, Green

Kevin Durant showed few effects from a knee injury as he returned to the court Saturday night, according to Janie McCauley of The Associated Press. The former MVP had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and seemed to move fine on his left knee after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain that sidelined him for 19 games. Golden State originally feared he would be lost for the season when he the injury occurred February 28th. “I think he looked great. It’s going to be hard for anybody to take off a month and come back and put on a great show,” said teammate Klay Thompson. “It was great to see that first play, him attacking the rim like that.”

There’s more this morning from the Pacific Division:

  • Durant’s return solves the Warriors’ depth problem at the wing and makes them clear favorites to win the West, writes Ethan Sherwood Strauss of Seven Golden State players reached double figures Saturday in a blowout of the Pelicans. Having Durant in the lineup puts the Warriors’ “super team” at full strength heading into the playoffs. “It felt normal again,” Durant said. “I’m a basketball player. I love playing basketball; that’s my favorite thing to do. So to feel like I’m part of the team, to feel like I’m a part of this energy that we have, it feels great.”
  • One concern that came out of Saturday’s game was a right ankle sprain suffered by forward Matt Barnes in the second quarter. However, Barnes said he expects to be ready when the playoffs start next weekend, tweets Marc J. Spears of The 36-year-old signed with the Warriors in early March in the wake of Durant’s injury.
  • Draymond Green, one of the favorites to be named Defensive Player of the Year, had an in-depth talk about his defensive philosophy with Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News. Green has finished second in the balloting for the award the past two seasons.

Kevin Durant Won’t Have Minutes Restriction In Return

Warriors star Kevin Durant will make his long-awaited return from a left MCL sprain tomorrow night against the Pelicans, and he will do so without a minutes constraint. As AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today reports, Durant will be given a long leash in his comeback from a 19-game absence.

“Obviously I wanted to be out there playing,” Durant said. “That’s my favorite thing to do, play basketball. To be away was different, it was tough, but I looked at the big picture and figured that at some point I would get better. That day is here and I’m thankful.”

Durant claimed to have become restless during his prolonged absence. In a report from Chris Haynes of ESPN, the eight-time All-Star said he almost went “over the deep end” while rehabbing.

“If I had to wait until the playoffs, I would have waited,” he said. “At some point, I would just have to throw myself in the fire. It doesn’t matter if it’s the regular season or playoffs. It’s still basketball. Guys are still out there competing. No matter if it’s the 80th game or the first game of the playoffs.” 

While Durant’s injury removed him from any serious MVP consideration, his first season with Golden State has largely been a success. KD’s 53.7% shooting is a career-best total, as are his 8.2 rebounds per game. With just three regular season games remaining, Durant will look to regain his bearings before playing in the postseason.

“We just wanted to get (Durant) in the flow of the five-on-five, which we haven’t played until today,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He looked good. It was a good day at work.”

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