Kevin Durant

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.”

Eastern Notes: Knicks, Sabonis, Hachimura, Johnson, Henson

Knicks management was “stunned and depressed” that marquee free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant chose the Nets, a team source told Frank Isola of The Athletic. The Knicks have tried to convince outsiders they didn’t want meetings with them or another top free agent, Kawhi Leonard, but in actuality they desperately wanted those big-ticket free agents, Isola continues. However, it may work out for them in the long run considering Durant’s Achilles injury and Irving’s injury history, Isola adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • It makes sense for the Pacers to move Domantas Sabonis if he doesn’t mesh well with Myles Turner in the Pacers’ starting lineup, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic opines. Indiana is reportedly shopping Sabonis because extension talks have gone nowhere. The team should see if they can play together but if it doesn’t work, there’s no need to tie up a chunk of the team’s cap space on two centers, Vecenie continues, especially since it drafted another center in June.
  • Sabonis expressed his disappointment about the extension negotiations and subsequent trade rumors on Saturday, Forbes’ Tony East tweets. “Theres not really much to talk about. I know exactly how the Pacers feel about me now,” Sabonis said. “They know how I feel about that. There’s not much more to say. I’ll let my agents do the rest of it, we’ll see what happens.”
  • Wizards first-round selection Rui Hachimura is likely to be in the starting lineup for the season opener, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post tweets. Coach Scott Brooks said he was “leaning the way.” Hachimura averaged 10.3 PPG and 6.5 RPG in 21.9 MPG during the preseason.
  • Heat forward James Johnson believes he’ll suit up for the opener, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Johnson has returned for workouts after a team-imposed suspension when he failed to meet their conditioning standards. Johnson said he just needs to get his body fat percentage down a little more. “You know, body fat takes a long time to drop. So I’m just waiting for that to get down,” he said. “I know my numbers. My weight is good, my conditioning is good, I’m just waiting for my numbers to drop.”
  • Center John Henson‘s injury woes have continually frustrated the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Henson has been sidelined most of the preseason with groin and ankle injuries. A wrist injury that required surgery made last season a virtual washout for the former Bucks big man. Coach John Beilein was hoping Henson could challenge for a rotation or even starting spot. ““I’ve seen him so limited this year because he’s basically been injured almost every day that I’ve known him,” Beilein said.

Durant: Knicks “Not As Cool” To Younger Players

Appearing on Ebro in the Morning on Hot 97 in New York on Tuesday morning, Kevin Durant was asked whether he considered the Knicks in free agency before signing with the Nets. While Durant acknowledged that he thought about the Knicks, he clarified that it was “just a thought” and that he didn’t do a “full analysis” on the franchise (link via ESPN.com).

More interestingly, Durant also offered his opinion on the Knicks’ brand in general, attempting to explain why the team hasn’t received serious consideration from star free agents in recent years.

“I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players who, in their lifetime, don’t remember the Knicks being good,” Durant said. “I’ve seen the Knicks in the Finals, but kids coming up after me didn’t see that. So that whole brand of the Knicks is not as cool as let’s say the Golden State Warriors, or even the Lakers or the Nets now. You know what I’m saying; the cool thing now is not the Knicks.”

The Knicks created enough cap room for two maximum-salary slots heading into the 2019 free agent period and owner James Dolan expressed confidence in the spring that the team would have a highly successful free agent period. Instead, New York missed out on its top targets and ended up signing second- or third-tier free agents such as Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, and Taj Gibson.

Durant and Kyrie Irving were thought to be at the top of the Knicks’ wish list, but chose to join the crosstown Nets instead. Asked today if Dolan’s comments were a turnoff to him and Irving, Durant dismissed that idea, saying that he didn’t think either he or Kyrie heard them to begin with, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Warriors Notes: Green, Russell, Spellman, Curry

Warriors forward Draymond Green is glad he didn’t have to deal with all the speculation regarding free agency in what would have been his walk year, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Green, who could have been one of the top free agents in a diluted market next summer, averted that issue by signing a four-year extension worth nearly $100MM in August. “I didn’t myself want to come into the season with all that,” he said. “Kind of becomes a headache.”

We have more on the Warriors:

  • The D’Angelo RussellKevin Durant sign-and-trade was nerve-wracking and challenging due to time constraints, GM Bob Myers said in a radio interview with 95.7 The Game (hat tip to Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area). “So for that to happen, obviously one thing, Kevin has to leave,” Myers said. “Two, you got to get Brooklyn to cooperate and Kevin to cooperate in a four-hour window of time. You need D’Angelo to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll come.” He had other offers. A lot of times that’s like a three-team trade, they just don’t happen.”
  • Forward Omari Spellman wasn’t immediately thrilled at the prospect of moving from the Hawks to the Warriors, Slater adds in another tweet. “That was extremely tough for me,” he said. “But on the flip side, an organization that has been, let’s be honest, the best team in the league for like the last four, five years decided to take a chance on me.” Golden State traded center Damian Jones and a second-round pick to acquire Spellman.
  • Stephen Curry isn’t interested in any load management plans, Logan Murdock of NBCS Authentic tweets. Concerning his workload, Curry quipped, “48 minutes a game for all 82.”

Nets Notes: Irving, Durant, Jordan, Allen

Speaking today to reporters at the Nets‘ Media Day, Kyrie Irving said he felt as if he let down his teammates in Boston last season and wants to be a better leader for his new team in Brooklyn.

As Malika Andrews of ESPN.com details, Irving opened up about how the death of his grandfather last fall impacted him and why he had a change of heart following his preseason vow to re-sign with the Celtics and ultimately decided to play closer to home.

“A lot of the joy I had from basketball was sucked away from me,” Irving said of the time following his grandfather’s death. “There was a facial expression I carried around with me throughout the year and I didn’t allow anyone to get close to me. It really bothered me. I didn’t take the necessary steps to get counseling or therapy. I had to acknowledge that fact.”

Irving received much of the blame for the Celtics’ disappointing 2018/19 showing, which included chemistry issues and a leadership void in the locker room. In his comments today, he seemed to acknowledge that the criticism was fair.

“A lot of those battles I thought I could battle through (in Boston’s) team environment, I wasn’t ready for,” Irving said, according to Andrews. “And I failed those guys. I didn’t give them everything I could have during that season. In terms of me being a leader and bringing everyone together, I’ve failed.”

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston provides a more extensive transcript of Irving’s comments, while Rob Perez passes along a video link. The All-Star point guard said he is arriving in Brooklyn with a “fresh mindset” and hopes to avoid the same mistakes he made with the Celtics.

Here’s more from the Nets’ Media Day:

  • Asked about why he chose the Nets in free agency and whether he considered teams like the Warriors, Knicks, and Clippers, Kevin Durant said he thought about those other possibilities for “a couple seconds,” but wanted to be in Brooklyn (Twitter links via Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic). It was really easy to see what these guys brought to the table,” Durant said of the Nets. “It’s not like I had to do any deep analysis of any player here.”
  • Durant also offered the following quote on his decision to leave the Warriors (Twitter link via Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog): I felt like it was time for a change and I wanted to play for a new team and simply put I just did it. I didn’t really think about what I was leaving behind. I thought it’s time to think about me.”
  • According to Irving, he and Durant would like to finish their careers together with the Nets (video link via Yahoo Sports).
  • Irving told reporters about talking to Durant and DeAndre Jordan at “4:16 in the morning” on the day of free agency and deciding they wanted to play together in Brooklyn (video link via Perez).
  • Jordan said that he and Jarrett Allen will compete and bring out the best in one another, and that both players will be fine no matter who ends up winning the starting center job (Twitter link via James Herbert of CBS Sports).

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Tatum, Simmons, Dinwiddie

According to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, discussions between the Nets and veteran forward Lance Thomas have centered around Thomas having a regular season roster spot.

The Nets have 15 players on guaranteed deals and can add an extra player to their roster during the last 20 games of Wilson Chandler‘s 25-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. When that suspension is over, however, the Nets would have to waive Thomas or someone else to get back to 15 players.

Begley adds that Thomas has a good relationship with Kevin Durant from their days together in Oklahoma City, so that will only help Thomas’ chances of staying on with the Nets should he be signed.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens says that Jayson Tatum is ready to go for the opening of camp next Tuesday, telling Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald that Tatum is “fine” after suffering an ankle sprain while playing for the U.S. national team. “He’s ready to go from what I’ve been told… I don’t know if he will do anything 5-on-5 this week, but we anticipate no issues when camp starts next week. At least, that’s the latest that I got.”
  • The Sixers have officially announced several new hires and promotions for the 2019/20 season, including the addition of former NBA big man Roy Hibbert as the team’s new player development specialist, which was reported back in August.
  • Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons tells Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press that he found his love of the game again this summer. “I kind of got back to who I was and having fun with the game. I felt like the past season I lost that enjoyment side of it but I feel like this summer has been huge for me. Just the work I’ve been putting in, I kinda fell in love with putting that work in again and I’ve been in the gym every day working and the results have been paying off so I’m excited for the season to start.”
  • Shams Charania of The Athletic sat down with Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to get some more details on how the 26-year-old is turning his contract into a digital investment vehicle.

Thunder Notes: CP3, Roberson, Maynor, KD

Asked today about how the team might approach a potential trade for Chris Paul, Thunder general manager Sam Presti declined to get into specifics, as Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays.

“Those are all case-by-case things,” Presti told reporters. “We’re not really focused on the hypotheticals.”

[RELATED: Chris Paul trade to Miami remains unlikely]

While there are whispers that Paul may want to join a contender rather than the spend the entire 2019/20 season in Oklahoma City, Presti said the veteran point guard is a “hooper” and “competitor” who just wants to play basketball. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for both of us,” the Thunder’s GM said.

Here’s more out of OKC:

  • Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since January 2018 due to leg injuries, is expected to be ready to go for training camp, Presti confirmed today, per Eric Horne of The Oklahoman. “We’re hopeful he’ll be seeing some preseason action as it gets closer,” Presti said. “We’ll obviously manage him closely because he hasn’t played competitive basketball in a while. He’s worked hard to get there.”
  • The Thunder have hired former point guard Eric Maynor as an assistant coach for their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, Presti announced today (link via Lee of The Oklahoman). Maynor, who played for the Thunder between 2009-13, also spent multiple seasons overseas, which Presti believes “gave him a totally different perspective on the game.”
  • Responding today to critical comments made by Kevin Durant about the way he was treated by the Thunder and fans after he left OKC in 2016, Presti took the high road, telling reporters, “I have nothing but positive things to say about him and his tenure here” (link via Horne of The Oklahoman).
  • According to Royce Young of ESPN.com, Presti pushed back against Doc Rivers‘ recent assertion that the Clippers knew the Thunder were looking to “break up their team” before they negotiated a trade for Paul George“We all know that players like Paul George and Russell Westbrook are extremely hard to acquire in cities, in the smaller cities in the league, and when you have those players, you try to do everything you can to retain them,” Presti said. “… I think the thought pattern just doesn’t really line up if you just look at it logically. Probably that type of thing would have been done much earlier and it wouldn’t have resulted from a trade request from one of your best players.”
  • The Oklahoman’s basketball writers discussed a handful of Thunder-related topics in a roundtable, including whether Billy Donovan is on the hot seat, what the Thunder could realistically expect to acquire in a Chris Paul trade, and more.