Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant “Progressing” In Rehab Work

The Nets are happy with Kevin Durant‘s progress in rehabbing his surgically repaired Achilles, even though there are still no plans for him to play this season, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Durant went through a 25-minute workout this afternoon at Barclays Center and told Lewis that it went well. Coach Kenny Atkinson said seeing him on the court is having a positive effect on his teammates.

“He’s progressing. I know he’s working extremely hard,” Atkinson said. “He’s a quiet personality, but when he needs to say something, he says it. Usually what he says is spot-on. We don’t want to bother him too much because he’s locked into his rehab. He’s a guy who likes to work in the shadows. He doesn’t want all the attention, but he’s working his tail off.

“When he walks in the room, we all become more confident even though he’s not playing — it’s just that way. I enjoy talking to him about the game and his opinions about what’s going on in the league. ‘Hey, what is this team doing? Did you see this? What do you think about this player?’ It’s a real treat for me to have a guy like that around and for our players. They love it. He’s around all the time, so it’s great.”

When the Nets signed Durant in July, they understood it was very unlikely he would be able to suit up for them this season. The ruptured Achilles that he suffered during the NBA Finals comes with a long recovery process, and both parties agreed the best way to protect Brooklyn’s four-year, $164MM investment in Durant was to let him take the entire season to recover.

Atkinson confirmed to Lewis tonight that the plan hasn’t changed.

“No, I think we’re all on the same page. That’s not going to happen,” he said. “Progressing. I don’t have my medical book up here. I can’t give you what stage or any of that. It’s great when you’re there every day. You see incremental progress. That’s all I can give you.”

Nets Notes: Dinwiddie, Irving, Durant, Luxury Tax

Spencer Dinwiddie was confident last season that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were coming to Brooklyn, former Nets teammate Ed Davis tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Davis, now with the Jazz, said Dinwiddie began talking about landing the star free agents before last year’s All-Star break.

“Spence knew,” Davis said. “My locker was right next to Spencer’s too so we used to talk all the time. And he was saying that early. So we knew it was a good chance.”

Bondy notes that Dinwiddie may have diminished his own role in Brooklyn by recruiting Irving. Dinwiddie was putting up All-Star numbers while Irving was sidelined with a shoulder impingement, but they will now share playmaking duties.

“We’re just going to go with the flow,” Dinwiddie said. “We’re just going to go with whoever is hot in the moment.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Echoing comments earlier this week from general manager Sean Marks, Nets owner Joe Tsai told Brian Lewis of the New York Post that he’s willing to pay the luxury tax in order to compete for a title. “I think the fans expect that we win a championship. And the good thing is I believe that we do have the pieces in place,” Tsai said in a YES Network interview. “Now we have some injuries and people are coming back. But the fundamental pieces are in place to perhaps go all the way, so I’m absolutely comfortable that if we pay the luxury tax, that’s fine.” Lewis points out that the Nets are slightly below the $143MM cap threshold for next season, but that figures to change once they re-sign Joe Harris and fill out the roster.
  • Durant answered fans’ questions on Twitter this week about his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, Lewis adds in the same story. Durant discussed the “everyday grind” of rehab and how difficult it is to be away from the game. “It gets better everyday, but (it’s) good to have patience,” he tweeted.
  • Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot returns to Philadelphia tonight in a stable situation for the first time since the Sixers traded him in 2018, observes Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Luwawu-Cabarrot is on a two-way contract with Brooklyn and has helped the team stay afloat through injuries. He has about a week left on his 45-day NBA limit, leaving the Nets with a decision about whether to give him a standard contract to keep him on the main roster.

Jared Dudley Talks Kuzma, Griffin, Knicks, More

Jared Dudley isn’t one of the NBA’s best players, but he’s one of the league’s best interview subjects, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic, who notes that Dudley is willing to talk to virtually any reporter about virtually any subject.

In his own Q&A with Dudley, Oram asked the Lakers‘ forward about his music tastes, his favorite current teammate, his least favorite NBA cities, how he spends his off days, his biggest fears, and much more.

If you have an Athletic subscription, the conversation is definitely worth checking out in full. But here are a few of Dudley’s more noteworthy comments:

On Kyle Kuzma‘s mini-controversy related to his trainer’s anti-LeBron James comments:

“Not only have I talked to him (about it), other players have talked to him. So when it comes to Kuz, this has been good for him, his maturity and having to deal with it. When I heard he was meeting with the media (on Saturday), that’s something I would do. I would have gone to social media right then and there. ‘He don’t speak for me. Yes I’ve trained with him, but this is where I view it at.'”

On his least favorite current or former teammate:

“I don’t get along with Blake Griffin now. When I was with him I didn’t have a bad relationship with him. That team (the 2013/14 Clippers) was the most toxic team. It was weird because it was a bipolar type team. We were somewhat cool off the floor; we weren’t cool on the floor.

“I just don’t like his personality and attitude. I think he’s a great basketball player and I think you can differentiate the two. It’s easy to be the greatest teammate when you’re winning. How about when you’re losing? How about when you’re down 20? And that’s the biggest thing with that team. It was the biggest front-running team. You’re up 20, everything’s good, throwing lobs. Down 20, people want to fight, bickering. I don’t want to say my least favorite … That’s a teammate right now that I don’t talk (to), don’t get along (with), words aren’t exchanged on the court, yada yada.”

On how he has weighed taking the most lucrative contract offer vs. playing for a contender:

“I never have taken a discount because, for one, I’m never going to get that back. I never believed on that. That being said, I signed a one-year deal (with the Lakers). I might have potentially been able to get a two-year deal somewhere else, but I wanted to come to the Lakers because this not only benefits me this year to win a championship but long-term. Media, dealing with you guys. If I try to become a head coach or a GM, I’ve now played with LeBron, I’ve been on a championship-caliber team. It helps my whole resume going forward.”

On the first change he’d make for the Knicks if he were in position to do so:

“I’d be getting rid of that practice facility in Westchester. Nobody wants to live there, no one wants to commute there. You have to get as close to the city as possible. That’s why Brooklyn got Kevin Durant. I told DeAndre Jordan who told Kevin Durant: The (Nets’) practice facility is two minutes from (Barclays Center). They didn’t even know that. I lived in the city. It took me 12 minutes to get to the practice facility. That’s a huge bonus. People bash the Knicks, but I definitely wouldn’t bash the Knicks. I would have gone there if the Lakers wouldn’t have offered me, or Brooklyn. If it was my third or fourth option, sure.”

Kevin Durant: “I Want To Own And Run An NBA Team”

Count Nets forward Kevin Durant among the NBA superstars who is interested in transitioning to team ownership once his career as a player is over. According to Steven Bertoni of Forbes, Durant expressed interest in overseeing an NBA franchise in a role similar to the one Michael Jordan has in Charlotte.

“I want to own and run an NBA team,” Durant said. “Run day-to-day operations and impact young players coming through the league.”

Bertoni’s profile of Durant focuses more on his business interests than his on-court NBA career, detailing how the two-time Finals MVP took advantage of his time with the Warriors to pursue investment opportunities in Silicon Valley. Bertoni suggests that KD will ultimately make well over $500MM from his basketball contracts and sponsorships by the time his playing career ends and wants to increase that number further through his “expanding collection of startups and media plays.”

“I started down here,” Durant said, gesturing to the floor. “I know there’ll be kids popping up in my family, and I want them to start above this roof. The only way to get there for your family is to create money, and I want to do it in a cooler way, not just being greedy and accumulating as much as I can.”

Durant isn’t the only NBA star that has talked about following in the footsteps of Jordan, who is the controlling owner of the Hornets and oversees the basketball operations department as well. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are among those who have also shown interest in owning NBA teams.

Knicks Rumors: Fizdale, Durant, Porzingis, Griffin

Before being hired by the Knicks in the spring of 2018, David Fizdale was a highly sought-after head coaching candidate, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, who suggest that Fizdale had offers from the Hawks and Suns and was the leading candidate for the Hornets‘ opening as well. However, Fizdale was focused on New York and turned down other offers even before he received any assurances from the Knicks.

A year and a half later, Fizdale is back on the market after a miserable start to the 2019/20 season. Leading up to his ouster, Fizdale knew that team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry were meeting with players to get their input on why the Knicks weren’t showing progress, sources tell Shelburne and Wojnarowski. Eventually, Fizdale told Mills and Perry that he understood if they felt he’d become part of the problem.

Mike Miller has taken over as the Knicks’ interim head coach and should keep the job at least through the end of the season, assuming players respond to him, per the ESPN duo. But there have already been talks at the ownership level about potentially hiring a new coach during the season if the club’s struggles continue. That would present a new series of complications, since Mills and Perry are now on the hot seat themselves, and it’s not clear whether they’d get the go-ahead to pick a new coach.

Shelburne and Wojnarowski touch on many more topics in their latest article, exploring many other factors that have contributed to the Knicks’ ongoing struggles in recent years. The piece is absolutely worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights:

  • Kevin Durant did “strongly” consider the Knicks as a free agent destination earlier this year, but when he and Kyrie Irving talked about teaming up, Durant never pushed the Knicks the way Irving pushed the Nets, sources tell ESPN. Shelburne and Wojnarowski also suggest that team owner James Dolan was wary about bringing aboard Durant and his torn Achilles after the Knicks’ experience with Amar’e Stoudemire.
  • The Knicks began gauging Kristaps Porzingis‘ trade value early in 2019, offering him to the Pelicans in an Anthony Davis package, per ESPN. When New Orleans showed little interest in that proposal, the Knicks began to wonder if league-wide interest in Porzingis may not be as high as they believed.
  • When Porzingis and his brother (and agent) Janis found out the Knicks were discussing a possible trade with the Mavericks, they hurried a meeting with the team, providing a wish list of four destinations (Nets, Clippers, Raptors, and Heat), according to Shelburne and Wojnarowski. The Knicks turned around and quickly finalized a deal with Dallas, perhaps not wanting to lose leverage when Porzingis’ request leaked. The series of events left more than a dozen teams around the NBA wondering why they didn’t have a chance to bid on Porzingis, and suggested one of two things to rivals, per Shelburne and Woj: Either the Knicks knew Durant and Irving were coming, or they didn’t know how to properly execute a franchise-altering trade.
  • After parting ways with Phil Jackson in 2017, the Knicks initially zeroed in on David Griffin, who told the organization he was interested only if he could become president of basketball operations and report directly to ownership. Dolan suggested he was “excited” about that idea, sources tell Shelburne and Woj. However, Griffin soon realized – particularly when word broke that the Knicks had signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71MM deal – that he likely wouldn’t have full autonomy and would have to report to Mills. He met with the club but withdrew his name from consideration shortly after that meeting.
  • The Knicks subsequently pivoted to Perry, a candidate “without the gravitas or leverage to demand a direct line to ownership.” Perry’s contract includes fourth- and fifth-year options that must be exercised this season, according to ESPN. It seems unlikely at this point that New York will pick up those options for 2020/21 and ’21/22.

Knicks Notes: Trier, Payton, Ntilikina, Garnett

Allonzo Trier‘s future with the Knicks appears uncertain after being kept on the bench for eight of the past 10 games, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Trier saw his first game action outside of garbage time in nearly three weeks Monday in New York’s 44-point loss to the Bucks. He scored 10 points in 11 minutes in the first half, but wasn’t used at all after halftime.

Coach David Fizdale hasn’t provided a public explanation for why Trier has been demoted, other than citing the team’s depth at shooting guard with RJ Barrett, Wayne Ellington and Damyean Dotson. There are theories that Trier’s isolation-heavy game doesn’t fit with Fizdale’s emphasis on ball movement.

“You take it head on,’’ Trier said. “Be prepared whenever that time is, continue to work and get better and help this team if I’m playing or not. I got to accept that. They tell me to stay ready.’’

Opportunity could come later in the season if the Knicks start moving on from their veteran free agents. Ellington is among the players who could be moved by the February trade deadline or waived if a deal can’t be worked out.

There’s more from New York:

  • Elfrid Payton, who has played just four games since signing with the team this summer, may be ready to return tomorrow against the Nuggets, Berman tweets. Payton, who was briefly installed as the team’s point guard, has been sidelined since October 28 with a strained right hamstring. That role has been taken over by Frank Ntilikina, who missed Monday’s game with a back injury, but may also be ready for Thursday.
  • Roster flexibility is all the Knicks have left from what could have been a historic offseason, observes Steve Popper of Newsday. With enough cap space to offer two max contracts, the team missed all its top targets and wound up with seven free agents, six on expiring deals. Management can start moving those contracts on December 15, when most newly signed free agents become eligible to be traded.
  • Former NBA star Kevin Garnett is calling out Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for choosing the Nets instead of the Knicks in free agency, relays Neil Best of Newsday. Speaking at a roundtable to promote a new film, Garnett claimed they passed on a chance to breathe life into a historic franchise. “I’m not a Knicks fan by far,” he said. “But if they come to the city and dominate, man, the first superstar to hit New York and be vibing is going to be bigger than life. Remember I said that. Any piece of hope in this city is going to [soar]. People are waiting.”

And-Ones: Timberwolves, Durant, Buycks, Draft

The Timberwolves are fuming over how the NBA handled the discipline for Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns, which stems from a mid-game scuffle between the two superstars last week, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Minnesota has expressed disapproval of the league’s decision to suspend both Embiid and Towns two games for multiple reasons, as noted by Krawczynski.

Firstly, team officials believe Embiid was the instigator of the scuffle, leading to Towns’ involvement. The franchise also touched on Embiid’s decision to leave the game with a bang upon his ejection, shadow-boxing and firing up the Philadelphia crowd while Towns exited the floor quietly.

And the last issue, one discussed heavily by fans across the league, relates to the league’s decision not to penalize Ben Simmons for his involvement in the altercation. Simmons was seen with his arms wrapped around the neck of Towns, causing many to believe he was attempting a rear-naked choke. The league ultimately viewed Simmons as a peacemaker.

“While we are disappointed in the league’s decision, we understand the magnitude of this unfortunate incident,” Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said, according to Krawczynski. “The NBA is highly competitive and last night was a reflection of that. We support Karl and will move forward together as a group.”

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The shaky starts from both the Nets and Warriors show Kevin Durant‘s tremendous on-court value even more, as detailed by Frank Isola of The Athletic. Golden State lost Durant in free agency this summer, with the 10-time All-Star choosing to take his talents to Brooklyn on a multi-year deal. Durant is expected to miss the rest of the 2019/20 season as he rehabs from a torn Achilles’ tendon, with the Nets currently struggling at 2-4.
  • Free agent guard Dwight Buycks has agreed to a new deal with the Shenzhen Leopards in China, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Buycks averaged 20.5 points with the team last season.
  • Jonathon Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN.com discuss the early contenders for the 2020 NBA Draft, including which prospects have the best chances of being selected in the lottery. ESPN revealed its early mock draft for the event last week, with 7-foot-1 center James Wiseman currently projected as the No. 1 overall pick.

Durant: Draymond Altercation Played Part In Decision To Leave Warriors

Appearing on ESPN’s First Take (video link) on Thursday morning, Nets forward Kevin Durant admitted that last year’s on-court altercation with Draymond Green played a part in his decision to leave the Warriors as a free agent this summer.

“A little bit, yeah, for sure,” Durant responded when asked directly by Stephen A. Smith if that incident played a role in his departure. “Your teammate talks to you that way, you think about it a bit. … Definitely [it was a factor], for sure, I’m not going to lie about it.”

According to Durant, he and Green talked things out after that confrontation, which saw the two All-Stars exchange heated words following a blown end-of-game possession in a November loss to the Clippers. Reports at the time indicated that Green told KD the Warriors didn’t need him and that he was welcome to leave as a free agent.

In today’s First Take appearance, Durant went on to explain that the Green incident was far from the only factor in his decision, and that he simply thought it was time for him to move on from the Warriors.

“I felt like a lot of stuff in Golden State had reared its head,” Durant said, per Malika Andrews of ESPN. “I felt like it was going to be the end no matter what, especially for that group. Shaun Livingston was retiring. Andre Iguodala was getting older. Our contracts were going to start for the team and put us in a hole to get other players. It was time for all of us to separate.

Besides addressing his departure from Golden State, Durant touched on a few other topics that he has discussed before, reiterating that he didn’t feel pressured by the Warriors’ front office or his teammates to return from his calf injury in the NBA Finals (video link). The All-NBA forward also said again that he’s not expecting to play at all during the 2019/20 season as he recovers from his Achilles tear (video link).

Nets Notes: Irving, Durant, Jordan

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan first began talking about the possibility of playing on the same NBA team during the 2016 Rio Olympics, according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. The USA Basketball teammates didn’t get the chance to become NBA teammates until the 2019 offseason, but agreed when they all hit free agency this offseason that now was the time to make that plan a reality.

As MacMullan details, Irving told Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge during his exit interview this spring that he planned to move on, and he had already decided at that point that he’d head to Brooklyn. Durant spent hours researching Nets general manager Sean Marks, while Jordan talked to veterans like Jared Dudley about their experiences in Brooklyn. Ultimately, all three players decided it was the right landing spot for them.

Here’s more on the Nets, including several more tidbits from MacMullan’s deep dive:

  • Durant recognizes that the Nets aren’t the immediate championship favorite that the Warriors were during his years in Golden State, but he wants to help lead his new team to a title. “Obviously leaving Golden State, I’m not expecting anything better than that,” he said, per MacMullan. “I see this situation as, ‘All right, I’m coming to a young organization that has championship aspirations but doesn’t quite know what that feels like.'”
  • As Marks tells McMullan, there’s plenty of excitement within the organization about eventually being able to add Durant to Nets’ lineup. “He goes out and takes a couple of set shots — not jumpers — and the whole gym stops,” Marks said. “You can hear a pin drop. That’s great for our guys, because they sense this guy is waiting in the wings. We’re not waiting for him, but man, it’s kind of a cool feeling to know he’s coming.”
  • Irving, who has spent nine years working with his own performance specialist, has been somewhat resistant to the Nets’ player-performance program, according to MacMullan. However, Marks insists that Irving’s pushback on that issue has been “neither unexpected nor disruptive.”
  • There’s some concern among Nets officials about Irving’s mood swings — MacMullan suggests that he can become unwilling to communicate with coaches and even teammates in down moments. Sources tell ESPN that one such funk happened during Brooklyn’s trip to China, but the team is hopeful that having a good friend like Durant around will help.
  • As Bleacher Report relays (video link), Durant said in an appearance on Serge Ibaka‘s YouTube cooking show that the idea of finishing his playing career by spending a season on a EuroLeague team like Barcelona appeals to him.

New York Notes: Wilkes, DSJ, Durant, Dinwiddie

The Knicks initially expected to fill their second two-way contract slot with undrafted rookie Kris Wilkes, but health problems will prevent the former UCLA wing from joining the team at this point, as head coach David Fizdale confirmed today.

He got ill,” Fizdale said of Wilkes. “He came down with a serious illness. I don’t know what it was but it was pretty severe.”

The Knicks waited until the start of the regular season to sign a second two-way player alongside Kadeem Allen, presumably taking as much time as possible to see if Wilkes might re-emerge as an option. Instead, the team is signing former Grizzlies forward Ivan Rabb to fill that open two-way slot.

Here’s more on New York’s two teams:

  • Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has signed with Roc Nation for representation, he announced this week (on Twitter). Smith, who will become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason, will be repped by veteran agent Raymond Brothers, tweets Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal.
  • Appearing on Serge Ibaka‘s YouTube show, Kevin Durant explained why he chose the Nets over Knicks when he decided to make the move to New York as a free agent. “I just liked the organization as far as the direction they were going in — a bunch of young guys that played in the playoffs before,” Durant said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “The Knicks players, they‘re good young players but they still need more experience to match where I was in my career. It was nothing major against the Knicks. I just think Brooklyn is further along in the process of being a contender.”
  • Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie left Monday’s meeting with the NBA feeling good about where things stand with what he’s calling his Professional Athlete Investment Token (PAInT), per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “They had four or five comments previously, we got them down to one,” Dinwiddie said. “I think we’re going to get it done. It’s just pending a little more feedback.”