Kevin Durant

Clippers Emerging Threat To Sign Kevin Durant

The Clippers have emerged as an “equally dangerous” threat to the Knicks in luring Durant away from the Warriors, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his latest newsletter.

New York has always been a constant in the rumors regarding Durant’s next employer. Stein previously heard from a trusted source that Durant was making plans to join the Knicks. There were also rumblings about him considering the Nets. The Clippers being a real contender is the latest leak in what appears to be an ever-developing story.

Perhaps no one outside of Durant knows where he’s going to sign this offseason. It’s possible that even he doesn’t know yet, as his manager recently indicated.

Los Angeles has an attractive situation centered around cap space and a bevy of assets. Landry Shamet, who was acquired in the Tobias Harris deal, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander both made the All-Rookie Second Team, which was announced earlier today.

The Clippers also have the draft capital to make nearly any deal they please. They own all of their future first-rounders outside of this year’s selection (No. 20 overall, moved to Boston) and they have an additional first in each of the following two drafts, with their most valuable selection being Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick (via the Harris trade).

Durant still hasn’t been cleared to return to live action. He missed the entire Western Conference Finals and Stein writes that the Warriors’ initial optimism has “cooled” in regard to the expectation that Durant would make a speedy recovery.

Pacific Notes: Looney, Durant, Lakers, Kings

While it took him a few years to develop into the player he is now, Kevon Looney has become a key part of the Warriors‘ success, with head coach Steve Kerr referring to him as “one of our foundational pieces,” per Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

“To be called a foundational piece, I never would’ve believed that,” Looney said. “Even when I was playing pretty good last season, I never would’ve taken it that far.”

With DeMarcus Cousins sidelined, Looney was Golden State’s most reliable non-Draymond Green big man against the Blazers in the second round, averaging 10.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG with a .783 FG% in 27.6 minutes per contest over the course of the Warriors’ sweep.

The next step for Looney? Unrestricted free agency. Coming off a minimum salary contract, Looney is in for a big raise, and it’ll be interesting to see how aggressively the Warriors attempt to retain him, with key players like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson also up for new deals this offseason.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Warriors may have handled Portland without Kevin Durant, but Draymond Green said after last night’s win that they’ll need KD back for the NBA Finals, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com relays. According to Friedell, the team remains “cautiously optimistic” that Durant will be available when the NBA Finals get underway on May 30.
  • Magic Johnson‘s First Take appearance on Monday represented the second time that he has blindsided Lakers owner Jeanie Buss this spring, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. As Shelburne explains, Johnson spoke to Buss multiple times in the wake of his abrupt resignation and never went into detail about the grievances he had with GM Rob Pelinka and the rest of the organization, but he didn’t hesitate to air those grievances on First Take this week.
  • Buss ought to play a bigger public role on behalf of the Lakers as the team looks to move past its recent drama, opines Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times.
  • In addition to Jamaal Franklin, whose participation was previously reported, the Kings are hosting a series of other familiar names at their free agent mini-camp on Tuesday, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando, who identifies Josh Huestis, Amida Brimah, Josh Gray, and a handful of other free agents as some of the attendees.

Pacific Notes: Durant, Kings, Lakers, Franklin

The notion that the Warriors are a better team without Kevin Durant is silly and shouldn’t be taken seriously, Sam Amick writes for The Athletic.

Durant has missed Golden State’s last four games — all of which were wins — leading some to question how much better he truly makes the team. His absence has allowed Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and most notably Draymond Green to operate more with their surrounding cast, playing more up-tempo without their most talented player.

“We’re confident we can win (every time out), but we would much rather have (Durant) playing,” Curry said after Game 2, according to Amick. “So we’re going to hold the fort down till he gets back and go win another championship with our full squad. You know, him and DeMarcus (Cousins, who could return from his quad injury in this series), as well. We understand how great of players they are and how they raise our ceiling even higher.”

Multiple Warriors players have labeled Durant as the best talent on the team this season. The all-out recruitment of Durant, led by Green and others in 2016, kicked off because the team wanted another go-to scorer and all-around superstar on the wing.

Before suffering his strained calf against the Rockets, Durant was averaging a scorching 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in the playoffs. He shot 51% from the field and 42% from deep during those 11 contests.

There’s more today from the Pacific Division:

Knicks Notes: Durant, Davis, Draft, Ntilikina

The possibility of Kevin Durant signing with the Knicks overshadowed all other topics as NBA executives gathered this week for the annual combine, relays Steve Popper of Newsday. He states that most of those in attendance consider it a “fait accompli” that the Warriors’ star will be coming to New York when free agency begins in July.

The combine was peppered with talk of a secret meeting between the Knicks and Durant and rumors that a “handshake deal” is already in place, along with endorsement opportunities. That would be a blatant violation of NBA rules and a huge risk for the team to take when the opportunity to legally negotiate with Durant is just six weeks away. However, even those who don’t buy into such conspiracy talk seem convinced that a move is on the way.

Explaining why Durant might be willing to leave a potential three-time champion, one unidentified front office executive speculates that he is tired of constant “prodding” from Warriors coach Steve Kerr and believes he will never replace Stephen Curry as the team’s most important player. That opportunity would come instantly in New York, where Knicks fans have been clamoring for a star for years.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Knicks president Steve Mills wouldn’t discuss the possibility of including the No. 3 pick in a deal for Anthony Davis, but he insists the team is happy about its position coming out of Tuesday’s lottery, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Trade talks for Davis remain on hold as Pelicans executive David Griffin tries to convince his star big man to stay with the team, a source tells Berman. Any trade offer for Davis would have to include the two first-rounders from Dallas that were acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis deal, along with two young prospects from a group that includes Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.
  • Berman considers it a”virtual certainty” that New York will take Duke’s R.J. Barrett if the draft proceeds as expected. The Knicks rate Murray State’s Ja Morant slightly higher, but Memphis is likely to grab him with the second pick. New York’s front office met with both players Wednesday at the combine. The Knicks also own the 55th pick and could target a power forward in the second round.
  • The Knicks are willing to part with Ntilikina in exchange for another late first round or early second round selection, Berman adds. That would open more cap room to pick up the options on Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson without jeopardizing the ability to offer to max deals in free agency.

Rival Teams Wary Of Signing Kyrie Irving?

Multiple teams that were said to have interest in pursuing Kyrie Irving this summer are having second thoughts, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes. Irving will undoubtedly land a max contract, though his list of suitors may not be as long as anticipated just months ago.

The pause on Irving is a byproduct of how he ended his campaign with the Celtics. Two clubs are telling people around the league that they will only go after the point guard if another marquee free agent says he wants to play with Irving. Bulpett writes that the main target for each of these franchises is a different player and one of the teams had concerns that ownership would overrule the front office and dictate an Irving pursuit, though those concerns have been alleviated.

The talk behind the scenes is all over the place. Bulpett heard months ago that a source within the Knicks‘ front office was convinced that Irving and Kevin Durant were coming to New York. However, the scribe hears from an NBA agent that Irving wants the Nets and Durant favors the Knicks, thus causing a dilemma in the duo teaming up. Someone within the Warriors‘ organization tells Bulpett that Irving and Durant definitely spoke about the possibility of joining forces and Bulpett hears from another source that the Brooklyn talk is just a smokescreen.

The Celtics continue to hold out hope that Irving will re-sign with the team. It was reported earlier in the week that the front office believed that trading for Anthony Davis would make Irving warm up to the idea of returning. Irving has a Nike commercial in which he has his number retired in Boston and the organization hopes that becomes reality.

Two summers ago when Irving demanded a trade from the Cavs, some front offices were told by his camp that he would not re-sign with them. Some executives got the feeling that Irving got exactly what he wanted with the trade to Boston.

“We were told that the team he wanted to go to was getting ready to trade for him,” one general manager tells Bulpett. “And that team was Boston. So the Celtics were where he wanted to go. He got what he wanted. Now here we are two years later. Crazy.”

Kevin Durant Expected To Miss Entire Western Conference Finals

Kevin Durant is unlikely to play until the NBA Finals should the Warriors make it that far, a source tells Monte Poole of NBC Sports. Durant returning at any point during the postseason remains in question.

Durant won’t make the trip to Portland for Game 3 and 4. Instead, he will stay behind to work with the team’s medical staff. Golden State announced today that Durant has shown progress as he recovers from a strained calf, but he is not ready to participate in on-court activity.

The Warriors were hoping Durant would be able to return during the Western Conference Finals so that he could get re-acclimated with the team before a possible NBA Finals appearance.

DeMarcus Cousins has progressed to on-court activity, per the team. He’s not quite ready for live action, but his status appears more favorable than Durant’s at this time.

Both players are expected to be re-evaluated in a week, according to the Warriors.

Kevin Durant Out For Game 2 Of Western Finals

As expected, Warriors forward Kevin Durant will miss Game Two of the Western Conference Finals against the Trail Blazers. While the team has yet to provide official confirmation Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that Durant won’t play due to his calf strain.

We’d heard on Tuesday that KD was unlikely to play in either of the first two games of the series, and a subsequent report suggested that Golden State had yet to establish a real timeline for his return. Before Game 1, head coach Steve Kerr told reporters that Durant “hasn’t even stepped on the floor yet” and “still has pain.”

While the Warriors would certainly like to get Durant back on the court, they looked good without him in Game One, taking an early lead on Portland. It will be interesting to see whether Durant’s return timetable hinges at least in part on how the rest of the series plays out. For instance, if the Warriors take a 2-0 or 3-0 lead over the Blazers, it would make sense to be a little more patient with his recovery.

Durant’s status for Game Three in Portland on Saturday is not yet known.

Durant, Cousins Could Miss Conference Finals

Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins are not close to returning to action, Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the media, including the Associated Press’ Janie McCauley, on Monday.

A report earlier in the day indicated Durant would miss at least Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday with his calf strain. Durant was injured during Game 5 of the conference semifinals against Houston.

Kerr said Durant hadn’t “even stepped on the floor” yet, so any speculation about when he’ll return is pointless.

“We’ve tried to remain somewhat vague because the injury is really sort of open-ended in terms of how long he’s going to need to recover. But I think in doing so people have gotten the idea that he’s going to come back and be Willis Reed or something,” Kerr said. “He hasn’t even stepped on the floor yet, he still has pain. There’s time ahead of him on the rehab process.”

Golden State defeated Houston on the road Saturday without Durant to wrap up that series. Now, the Warriors are faced with the possibility of playing without Durant for much, if not all, of the conference finals against Portland. The Trail Blazers are banged up as well, as they’ve advanced through the playoffs without starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Key reserve Rodney Hood suffered a bone bruise on his knee Sunday in Game 7 against Denver.

Cousins partially tore his left quadriceps muscle in Game 2 of the first round against the Clippers. There has been growing optimism that he’d back at some point during the conference finals but Kerr downplayed that possibility.

“He hasn’t had any live stuff on the court yet, so he’s not that close either,” Kerr said. “Hopefully another week goes by and things start to get better and now we have a better prognosis. At this point we’re getting ready for this series without both of them.”

Kevin Durant Out For Game 1, “Unlikely” For Game 2

The Warriors will have to open the Western Conference Finals against the Trail Blazers without their leading postseason scorer, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

A source tells Shelburne that Kevin Durant will miss at least Game 1 of the series on Tuesday. The star forward, who is battling a calf strain, won’t be re-evaluated until Thursday, so he’s also considered “unlikely” to play in Game 2, which is scheduled for that night, per Shelburne.

Durant’s injury isn’t expected to be a long-term ailment, so there’s an expectation that he’ll be able to return to the court at some point during this series. Still, if he’s unable to suit up for the first two games, it’ll be a huge opportunity for the Blazers to try to steal a game in Oakland before heading back to the Moda Center.

Of course, the Warriors showed in Game 6 of the Western Semifinals against Houston that they’re still a force to be reckoned with even without Durant in their lineup. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 60 points in that game and Andre Iguodala had five steals and five 3-pointers as Golden State eliminated the Rockets on the road.

Pacific Notes: Sarver, Lakers, Durant, Curry

The Suns just hired the much-sought after Monty Williams as their next head coach, have two young studs in guard Devin Booker and big man Deandre Ayton, and share the top odds in Tuesday’s lottery to obtain the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. In other words, owner Robert Sarver has run out of excuses, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic

The Suns have had a losing record in the past five consecutive seasons, and Sarver’s reputation continues to suffer as a result. The fact that the team shuffles through staff so quickly doesn’t help either, but as Rankin notes, the Steve Nash-era Suns were Sarver’s teams as well, so it’s not like Sarver can’t turn things around.

The first step? Reports are he admitted to making mistakes to Williams before the new head coach was hired, which gave Williams enough respect for the franchise to choose the Suns as his next landing spot. The next step? Hoping for good luck on Tuesday night.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers would be best served by new ownership. The Buss family, particularly Jeanie Buss, has now overseen a sudden, public resignation from one of its all-time greats (Magic Johnson) and a protest by one of the league’s most die-hard fan bases. That, coupled with the Tyronn Lue fiasco, has created one of the most trying and embarrassing times in franchise history.
  • Despite the rumor mill cranking out the notion that Kevin Durant is headed elsewhere this summer, there is still a sense in Warriors‘ circles that Durant may stay in the Bay Area, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.
  • Per Mark Medina of The Mercury News, the dislocated left middle finger of Warriors sharpshooting point guard Stephen Curry is still causing a lot of pain, and Curry and the medical staff of Golden State are still figuring out different ways to make the situation (i.e. splint, buddy tape) more manageable as the postseason moves forward.