Durant should get a max deal this summer

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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.

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.

Carmelo Anthony leaves without speaking to media, will probably get fined

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Lately, Carmelo Anthony has parsed whether the Thunder are frustrated or angry and said he’s going through the roughest stretch of his career.

It didn’t get any better last night.

Anthony scored 11 points on 12 shots with three turnovers, and Oklahoma City got outscored by 21 points with him on the floor in a home loss to the Hornets. The Thunder have now lost two of three, falling to the lowly Nets and Hornets and needing overtime to beat the freefalling Grizzlies.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Anthony today:

I’m sorry. My bad. I had a FaceTime session with my son, so I skipped out on you guys yesterday. I apologize. It’s true, though. That’s true. It’s true. He had a school night.

The NBA’s media-access rules state: “All players must be available to the media for a minimum of five to 10 minutes during the postgame media access period.” It’s been a while since someone got punished for violating the policy, but Kevin Garnett was fined $25,000 for not speaking to the media after Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

I’m sympathetic to Anthony wanting to speak to his son, who’s still in New York. But the league tends not to take these personal concerns into consideration, which is probably for the best. There’s a rule. Anthony violated it. Assessing which personal calls should supersede the rule is a can of worms not worth opening. Besides, Anthony probably could have returned to the locker room for an interview after concluding the call.

Anthony earns a lot of money. If he wanted to risk a $25,000 fine to speak with his son, I have absolutely no problem with that. But that’s probably the choice he made.

In my experience, Anthony has been forthright with the media. He spent years as the face of the Knicks, dutifully answering for problems created by James Dolan and Phil Jackson. Because he was available nearly daily while his superiors avoided interviews, Anthony was the grilled by the New York media.

I bet he expected a reprieve in Oklahoma City. Instead, the spotlight has shined on him as a problem with the underwhelming Thunder.

It’s understandable he’d rather talk to his son than reporters. But it’s also understandable the NBA wants to promote its business through the media, and the league has power to enforce its rules.

Grizzlies fan absolutely owns kids halftime scrimmage (video)

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The Grizzlies lost for the 15th time in their last 16 games, a 25-point drubbing at home against the Heat, last night.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in Memphis.

This young fan – while playing in the halftime scrimmage – stopped his dribble, stepped on the ball, whipped off his youth jersey to reveal a Marc Gasol jersey, flexed, re-started his dribbled then drove for a basket.

Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation:

The Grizzlies don’t deserve this hero.

DeMarcus Cousins pushes Trevor Ariza after whistle, gets technical foul (video)

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For better or worse, DeMarcus Cousins is moody.

Just after getting dunked on by Clint Capela, Cousins showed his frustration by pushing Trevor Ariza after a whistle. The Pelicans center got his NBA-leading ninth technical foul – automatic suspension triggered at No. 16 – but I’m surprised this didn’t escalate beyond just that.