Durant should get a max deal this summer


durant.jpgJuly 1 is the first day the Oklahoma City Thunder can offer to extend the contract of their rising superstar Kevin Durant. They can offer a contract that kicks in after his rookie deal, potentially locking him up for five years beyond the one he has left (plus a potential qualifying offer).

And if they give him a max deal, one of the game’s biggest stars will stay in one of the NBA’s smallest markets. That’s what he told FanHouse.

Yeah, that’s what I want to do,” Durant said about signing an extension when he first is eligible, which would be after negotiations can start July 1 and until Oct. 31. “I want to be here. I want to be part of this organization.”

If the Thunder this summer offers Durant a maximum contract extension, which would be in the neighborhood of $80 million over five years, Durant will reach quickly for a pen.

“If they did offer that, that would be something that nobody could turn down,” Durant said. “I would be blessed and privileged and honored. But, at the same time, I’ve got to keep working. … It would be good (to sign this summer). To know that I can be with a team for a couple (more) years will be cool.”

There are only a handful of players in the league who truly deserve a max deal. Players who not only deliver on the court, but fill buildings to see them play, who sell jerseys, who draw free agents in to play with them and sponsors to the building. Durant is entering that elite group.

When you have one of those players in the organization, you do anything and everything to keep them and keep them happy. The hardest part of building a championship team is getting that key piece — finding the Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade or Tim Duncan. There simply are not many of those players. When you have one, you hold on tight.

You do not wait a year to sign them because a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011 might well save you a few bucks on this deal. You do not just extend the qualifying offer then see what the market will bear. You do not insult him that way — and it would be an insult.

Durant, even with a max contract, is going to make the Thunder money. He drives the television ratings that lets the franchise charge more for local deals. He drives season ticket sales and renewals. He is the one team sponsors want to be associated with. He sells jerseys. Save money by not offering the role players around him oversized deals. There are times and places to be smart with your money.

But the smart money is offering Durant a max extension on July 1.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.