Kevin Durant

Thunder Notes: Durant, Westbrook, George, Technicals

Kevin Durant is taking the blame for the strained relationship with former teammate Russell Westbrook, according to an article on NBC Sports Bay Area. Since Durant left the Thunder in July of 2016, he and Westbrook have been engaged in a simmering feud, and Durant believes he could have handled the situation better.

“Well I just got outta my own head, got out of my own ways and stopped thinking it was even a thing,” he said when asked about the topic at today’s All-Star Weekend press conference. “… I feel like I made it a thing when it a thing when it shouldn’t have been. It’s cool to kind of get past that and just appreciate these guys for who they are and what they do. And it’s all love at the end of the day.”

Westbrook seemed less open when asked about his feelings toward Durant. “Communicatin’, that’s about it,” he responded. “All the other stuff is kind of irrelevant. Just keeping it cool, talking when we need to and just moving forward.” Durant and Westbrook are All-Star teammates for the second straight year, this time on the squad captained by LeBron James.
There’s more Thunder-related news tonight:
  • Fans in Los Angeles, hoping to see Paul George sign with the Lakers in free agency this summer, serenaded him during the press conference with chants of “We want Paul,” tweets Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript. Westbrook quickly dismissed that possibility, shouting at the crowd, “Paul ain’t goin’ nowhere! It’s over for that,” relays Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).
  • When reporters asked George if he knows what he will do when he becomes a free agent, he responded, “I don’t,” then paused and said, “I know what I feel is best.” (Twitter link)
  • Thunder players understand better than anyone the on-court tensions that led to today’s meeting between representatives of the players’ and referees’ unions, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. OKC leads the NBA in technical fouls with 41 in 59 games. Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams each has seven, with George close behind at six. “The reality is, the officials have a really hard job, and our players have a hard job, and it’s a very, very competitive game,” said coach Billy Donovan, who has seven technicals of his own. “There’s going to be emotions that get in there. The communication part is really important. The officials want that, the players want that. … But the reality is, you have to have a coexisting relationship there. I think it’s important you have to control your emotions and you can deal with them, because again, they do have a hard job.”

Pacific Notes: Williams, Suns, Durant

The Clippers have relied heavily on offseason addition Lou Williams off the court as well as on it, Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times writes. In addition to posting career bests statistically, the veteran has been a leader in the locker room.

He’s been wonderful off the floor. And what I like most about Lou is he was the best when we were the worst,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, referring to the team’s nine-game losing streak in November. “I’m not talking about his scoring. I’m talking about his word and his actions. I thought he was the absolute best when we were at our absolute worst. And that says a lot about a teammate.

The guard, who has been flipped to a contender at the deadline twice in his career, is aware that his name has come up in trade speculation this season but is eager to remain with the Clippers and build a contender in Los Angeles.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Don’t expect the Suns to tank as unashamedly as they did last season. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 tweets that there’s no scenario in which the team will shut players down early as they did last year with a number of individuals, Eric Bledsoe chief among them.
  • While his name has been embroiled in trade speculation, Kings guard George Hill is intent on being a good teammate in Sacramento for as long as he’s in Sacramento, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. “Right now, I’m with the Sacramento Kings, and I’m trying to help these young fellas learn,” Hill said. “It’s about the relationships I’ve got with the players. We’ve got a bond, and it’s my job to teach those guys what I’ve been successful with.
  • The NBA has fined Warriors Kevin Durant $15K for his public criticism of officiating in Golden State’s Tuesday night win over the Knicks, Mark Medina of The Mercury News tweets.

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Golden State Warriors

The Warriors may be on the precipice of breaking new luxury tax records but that seems like a suitable trade off for their run as one of the most dominant franchises in NBA history.

Sure, they’ll inevitably need to finesse things with their four core superstars but that doesn’t mean the club can’t still make a handful of responsible moves in the summer of 2018 to make their lives slightly simpler when push comes to shove.

The Warriors issued a pile of short-term deals last summer and may be in position to do so again. At the end of the day, retaining flexibility and not overpaying for players that aren’t business critical will be their top priorities.

Omri Casspi, SF, 30 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.1MM deal in 2017
Casspi has bounced around the NBA over the course of the past nine seasons, occasionally showing glimpses of solid value as a rotation player but his role with the Warriors may be his most relevant yet. While Casspi’s 16.1 minutes per game are the second least of his career (he played sparingly for the Cavs in 2012/13), he’s shown that he’s a competent bit character in Golden State’s title defense and the organization should look to retain that. Casspi can plug into the Warriors rotation when needed, as evidenced by the 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game he averaged in 14 December games, but his modest resume doesn’t demand consistent time or big-time money. It seems like both parties would benefit from his return on another cheap deal but don’t rule out other contending hopefuls trying to poach him away.

Kevin Durant, PF, 29 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $53MM deal in 2017
After taking a discount so that the Warriors could retain players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, Durant will have the chance to turn down his player option and go after a bigger contract now that the team’s other core pieces are in place. Durant is on a short list of players with enough clout to bounce from short-term deal to short-term deal, retaining future flexibility and keeping general managers on their toes but he could also ink a four-year max pact and go about his business. While Durant strikes me as the type of personality that may prefer the latter, he could potentially opt for the former if for no other reason than to give the organization options as they gear up for their forthcoming years-long battle with the repeater tax.

Kevon Looney, C, 22 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.8MM deal in 2015
The Warriors made the decision to turn down the fourth-year of Looney’s rookie contract because at that point he hadn’t been able to show much value over the course of two injury plagued seasons. Looney has had a bit more of a chance to showcase his skills in 2017/18 but not enough to warrant major free agency interest. The Dubs may be able to bring Looney back on a minimum deal next season if they like the intangibles that he brings outside of game days but there’s no obvious case for it aside from the fact that they’ll need bodies and they know what he brings to the table.

Patrick McCaw, SG, 22 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $1.9MM deal in 2016
The Warriors seem receptive to developing McCaw into a potentially reliable rotation player, as evidenced by their decision to start him six times already this season. To this point in the season, however, he hasn’t exactly flourished when given the opportunity. McCaw’s situation is much like Looney’s. He’ll be a cheap option that they’ve worked with in-house. Given the financial restraints that the front office will be dealing with due to the rest of the roster, they may be happy to retain a 22-year-old that they can at least potentially groom into a reliable rotation player.

JaVale McGee, C, 30 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.1MM deal in 2017JaVale McGee vertical
McGee put forth his most notable season in years when he debuted with the Warriors in 2016/17 but hasn’t replicated that success in 2017/18. Due to matchup issues in the small ball era and the emergence of rookie Jordan Bell, the team just doesn’t need McGee’s energy and length as much as it did in his first year with the team. Considering that the big man isn’t getting any younger, it’s hard to imagine him landing much on the market if all he could manage to yield after last year’s solid campaign was another one-year, minimum contract.

Zaza Pachulia, C, 34 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $3.5MM deal in 2017
The Warriors have started Pachulia in all 109 of the games that he’s suited up in over the course of his two years with the franchise but this year his time on the court has dropped to its lowest point since 2009/10. Could that be an indication that the club is open to moving on in 2018? The Dubs gave Pachulia, a dinosaur in today’s game, more money than they needed to last summer but now that finances are even tighter, they may not be so generous. Expect Pachulia in a reserve role for the veteran’s minimum, if he’s even back in the Bay Area at all.

David West, C, 37 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.3MM deal in 2017
West has been an extremely productive role player for the Warriors off the bench in 2017/18, exactly what basketball fans outside of northern California feared when the former All-Star decided to crawl onto the Dubs’ bandwagon in 2016. West has had old-man game since he broke into the league, so regression isn’t exactly an issue. Expect him back playing meaningful minutes with Golden State until he decides to retire.

Nick Young, SG, 33 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $5.2MM deal in 2017
Young is a potent three-point shooter that slots in well with the rest of Golden State’s rotation but does he provide enough to justify what his $5M+ contract will amount to when the luxury tax bill is calculated? The Warriors may gauge Young’s receptiveness to returning on a cheaper deal in 2018/19. If he isn’t interested, expect him to pound the pavement and eventually land somewhere as a hired gun on a short-term deal. If logic prevails, he’ll be a valuable depth piece with the Warriors for years to come… but that might be a big if.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kevin Durant Wants To Eventually Own NBA Team

Warriors forward Kevin Durant has “serious intentions” of buying an NBA franchise after his playing career ends, league sources tell Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. That desire has intensified since Durant arrived in Golden State, per Haynes.

In the year and a half since Durant signed with the Warriors, he and business partner Rich Kleiman have taken several meetings with existing team owners and tech CEOs to survey the “lay of the land,” Haynes writes. According to ESPN’s report, Durant and Kleiman have been strategic about getting face time with “some of the most influential and innovative business figures in the Bay Area,” with the star forward hoping to eventually join Michael Jordan in the ranks of former players who become team owners.

“This is a genuine goal of [Durant’s] after he retires, to add another African-American in the position of majority ownership,” a source told Haynes.

Durant, who won’t celebrate his 30th birthday until September, still has many years as a player ahead of him — he told Sam Amick of USA Today last week that he can imagine playing until he’s 40. While that means that potential team ownership is still a ways off, it also means Durant could have another decade to increase his career earnings to the point where majority ownership is more financially viable.

Basketball-Reference‘s data suggests that Durant’s career salary after this season will total $160MM+, and that figure doesn’t include off-court earnings like endorsements and investments. The reigning Finals MVP will also be in position this summer to sign a mammoth new maximum-salary contract with Golden State. Based on current cap projections, such a deal would increase Durant’s total career NBA salary to approximately $365MM.

And-Ones: Ball Family, Durant, Early, Tanking

Both LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are set to play for the Lithuanian team Vytautas Prienai starting next year and the marketing campaign behind the brothers is not far behind. The Balls’ new team has shipped jerseys of the brothers to the United States and they will be available for purchase on Amazon soon after the new year, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports.

Vytautas has shipped 500 jerseys (half for each brother) to an Amazon warehouse and more will be shipped in the first week of January. LiAngelo, 19, and LaMelo, 16, have provided branding to facilitate the marketing deal, Charania writes.

The brothers’ outspoken father, LaVar Ball, has captured headlines across the basketball world for the better part of two years, advocating for his sons and their basketball futures. Lonzo Ball is currently in his rookie season with the Lakers but his two siblings will have to pursue NBA careers differently. LaMelo was taken out of Chino Hills High School and homeschooled before signing with Vytautas; LiAngelo was enrolled in UCLA before he was arrested for shoplifting in China. Shortly after returning to the United States, LiAngelo left UCLA to pursue his professional career.

Check out other news from the basketball world below:

  • Former Knicks player Cleanthony Early was traded in the G League last week, going from the Santa Cruz Warriors to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, per Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Early, 26, last appeared in the NBA during the 2015/16 season. He was averaging  13.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG and 2.6 APG with the Warriors at the time of the trade.
  • The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report from Christmas Day’s matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers revealed that Kevin Durant fouled LeBron James multiple times during the final possession of the game.
  • While teams have found success and results from prolonged stretches of losing seasons, the entire league suffers when teams decide to tank, ESPN’s Howard Bryant writes.

Warriors Notes: Curry, Green, Durant, Cook

Stephen Curry‘s sprained right ankle might keep him sidelined into 2018, according to Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Plans were for Curry to be re-evaluated tomorrow, but he still isn’t able to play. He is likely to sit out at least another week and miss the Christmas Day clash with the Cavaliers. His absence could extend even longer, as the Warriors want to make sure he is 100% before activating him. The team has won eight straight games, so there’s no rush to bring Curry back.

“This is the first time I’ve been home for like a week straight,” Curry said. “It’s a different challenge because things are a little slower, but I’m still frustrated with the healing process and all that stuff, having to figure out that. That’s a grind mentally more so than physically to get up every day and be like, ‘I’ve got to go through some pain to get my foot worked on. I’ve got to ride the bike to stay in shape.’ All that stuff is a different mental challenge.”

There’s more news from the Bay Area:

  • Draymond Green‘s right shoulder injury is becoming an unexpected problem, relays Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News. The star forward sat out the past two games and will have his condition re-evaluated today. “At first it didn’t seem like it would be more than a few days,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s a little bit concerning that he hasn’t made bigger strides, but I still don’t think its a major level of concern.”
  • One of the first people to reach out to Kevin Durant after he announced his decision to join the Warriors last year was former Laker Kobe Bryant, Medina reveals in a separate story. Bryant told Durant to shut out the public reaction and trust his own judgment. “Having Kobe there to support me through that situation, it felt like him telling me, ‘All right, your skills are good enough to be among some of the best,’” Durant said. “‘You just have to keep working to stay there.’”
  • Quinn Cook, who joined the Warriors on a two-way contract after being waived by the Hawks in October, relates that experience in a podcast with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. He had a two-way offer from Golden State before deciding to go to Atlanta for training camp on a partially guaranteed contract. “To be part of the standard franchise in basketball right now is very humbling for me and a big opportunity,” Cook said.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Booker, Jordan

When Stephen Curry and the Warriors brought Kevin Durant to the Bay Area they did so with situations like the one the team is going through right now in mind. Marcus Thompson of The Athletic writes that having Durant available to lead the way while Curry recovers from an ankle injury can be a game changer for the franchise.

Prior to Durant’s arrival, the Warriors struggled to win with Curry on the sidelines, let alone dominate. Having the two available to support each other – as Curry did when Durant was out toward the end of last season – could extend both of their primes.

As Thompson writes, we may not remember this particular stretch of games where Durant filled in for Curry but the fact that we’ve seen the two stars willingly share the offensive load at different times over the course of the past two seasons will benefit the team for years.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • While he’s still expected to miss two-to-three weeks with an abductor strain, Suns guard Devin Booker is already up and walking, Jose Romero of the Associated Press writes.
  • The Clippers may look to move DeAndre Jordan at the deadline if they’re not pleased with their chances of competing in the Western Conference. This ESPN Insider piece explores four possible trade scenarios, including one that would see Jordan land with the Bucks in exchange for Jabari Parker, Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova.
  • Former Raptors coach Jay Triano has the personality to develop young basketball players, something that will come in handy as he serves as the interim head coach of the Suns. DeMar DeRozan witnessed as much during the coach’s tenure in Toronto from 2002-11. “There’s a personality about Jay that’s so positive, it makes you want to be at work, makes you want to do all the things that he asks from you,” DeRozan told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “[He’s] kind of a player’s coach. The things he was doing, it was so long ago and I was so young, I didn’t understand. I thought the whole league was like that. Now looking back on it, Jay was definitely one of them guys.”

Warriors Projected To Spend $1.1 Billion On Salary, Taxes Over Next Five Seasons

The Warriors have built a dynasty, but if they plan on keeping this team together, it’ll come at a great cost, ESPN’s Bobby Marks writes.

The franchise is projected to spend over $1.1MM billion on salary and taxes through the 2020/21 campaign, a figure that includes $168MM in salary and taxes this season. One league executive told Marks that “finances are the only thing that will break up this Warriors team.”

The financial dominos begin this summer with Kevin Durant, who will yet again be a free agent if he turns down his player option as expected.

Marks breaks down Durant’s three main options as opting in ($26.3, one-year deal), opting out and signing another one-year deal (one-year, $30MM with another player option for year two), or opting out and signing a four-year pact for the max ($158MM with a starting salary of $35.4MM).

Golden State won’t have the ability to sign Durant to a five-year deal because the franchise only owns his Early Bird Rights. If he takes either of the one-year options, he’ll be eligible for a five-year deal in the 2019 offseason.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Early Bird Rights]

Durant took a discount to re-sign with the team this past offseason, though Marks believes it’s unlikely that he’ll take the same route again since the Warriors won’t be able to use the savings to add additional pieces.

Durant won’t get a Designated Veteran Extension. Every team is only permitted to sign two players to those super-max contracts and Golden State already locked up Curry through the 2021/22 season with one. Durant won’t be eligible for one of these deals since he came to the team as a free agent, which means the Warriors will have to decide whether to give their second DVE to Draymond Green or Klay Thompson.

Assuming Golden State saves the contract for Green and Thompson signs a traditional max deal, the Warriors could be facing a record-high $225MM in tax penalties for the 2019/20 season. That figure also assumes that Golden State brings back Patrick McCaw on a modest deal (Marks estimates $6MM salary in 2019/20).

As Marks notes, the league requires the payment in full – with no installment plan – for luxury tax charges, meaning Golden State’s ownership would have to send the full $225MM to the NBA in the late spring of 2020.

Golden State could shed salary by waiving Shaun Livingston, whose 2019/20 salary only contains $2MM in guarantees, and declining Damian Jones‘ fourth-year option, which is worth $2.3MM.

The Warriors are in a position unlike any other in NBA history both on the court and off of it. They’re the favorites to win the champion this season and it’s easy to envision them maintaining the Larry O’Brien trophy throughout the entire Donald Trump administration.

The costs of keeping the team together will be staggering, though it’s a problem opposing franchises would gladly accept if given the opportunity.

“There are 29 owners that would take this Warriors roster even if the cost was $495 million in luxury tax penalties,” a league executive told Marks.

Pacific Notes: Griffin, Durant, Triano

The Clippers have struggled to get reliable production from the point this season, largely because Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley have been sidelined extensively and Austin Rivers is better suited to play the role of combo guard. Stepping up as a playmaker then, has been power forward Blake Griffin. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes that Griffin has manned the point not unlike standout rookie Ben Simmons has to much fanfare.

Not only do guards on the roster consciously look to feed Griffin the ball to bring up the court, the 28-year-old has done well to create offense when he gets it. Through 18 games this season, Griffin leads the Clippers with 5.0 assists per game, all while posting his highest scoring average in five years and chipping in 7.7 rebounds per contest for good measure.

He’s always been able to handle the ball and he’s always been a real Mack truck coming down the floor in transition with the ball,” division rival Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “If he gets a rebound and he’s breaking out, he’s hard and it’s difficult to guard.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The young Suns are learning first-hand just how much head coaching matters in the NBA, Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic writes. After replacing Earl Watson following a disastrous first three games to start the season, Jay Triano has guided Phoenix to a 7-10 record.
  • The Warriors may have prematurely allowed Kevin Durant to suit up on an injured ankle, Monte Poole of NBC Sports writes. The forward sprained his ankle last weekend but played in Wednesday night’s marquee matchup with the Thunder, something head coach Steve Kerr now regrets. “I’m sure the league is happy with us because we played him on their ‘marquee’ game with and all that stuff. But he came out sore the next day. So we shouldn’t have played him,” Kerr said.
  • Well-suited for his elder statesmen role on the Warriors bench, David West has made an impact with his veteran leadership, Mark Medina of the Mercury News writes. “He’s one of those guys that doesn’t speak unless it’s necessary. He understands when it’s necessary,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s not doing it to hear himself talk. He’s not one of those guys. He’s doing it to impart some knowledge and wisdom. So he picks his spots wisely.”

Injury Notes: A. Davis, Thomas, Porzingis, Wall

Earlier today, we passed on the news that Sixers guard Markelle Fultz in making progress with his shoulder ailment. Here are a few more injury notes involving some of the NBA’s top players:

  • Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has cleared the concussion protocol and is probable for Monday’s game, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Davis was diagnosed with a contusion of the orbit bone above his right eye after a collision the third quarter of Friday night’s contest. He was removed from the game and didn’t re-enter.
  • Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas participated in some five-on-zero drills and worked on his shot today in practice, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
  • Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has swelling in his elbow caused by bursitis, but says it isn’t the reason for his recent shooting problems, according to Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link). “At the end of last season, it was really swollen; it was really, really big,” he said of the elbow. “But it was never really bothering me. Now this season, kind of fell on it a couple of times. It wasn’t bothering me either. In Sacramento, I fell kind of on the side. It was a new spot. It was much more sensitive. Now I’m doing treatment. Today’s the day I’m almost back to normal. I almost don’t feel it at all anymore.”
  • Wizards guard John Wall will miss today’s game with soreness in his left knee, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.
  • Warriors forward Kevin Durant suffered a sprained ankle last night and will sit out today’s game in Brooklyn, tweets Warriors PR.
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