Kevin Durant re-ups with the Thunder for five years, and there is much rejoicing


Thumbnail image for Durant_dunk.jpgKevin Durant announced that he has agreed to a five-year extension with the Thunder (worth a reported $85 million) and the only loser is uniform grammar usage. He will remain a Thunder. The Thunder is lucky to have him. Are they? Damn those tricky, singularly plural team names.

Of course, it’s of slightly more significance that one of the best players in the league will stay with the NBA’s most exciting young core. Everything is going right for the Thunder: Russell Westbrook is evolving, Durant somehow continues to improve, Sam Presti is making the right moves to build the roster patiently, and OKC is taking the league by storm. This is team construction at its finest, and so, so much of it has to do with the phenomenal success of Kevin Durant. At just 21, KD has already joined the league’s elite, and doesn’t show any sign of halting his ascension.

Now the Thunder faithful will be able to watch that ascension up close for another half-decade.

Durant’s been considered a special player ever since his freshman season at Texas. His skills were never in question, but Durant has surprised a lot of NBA fans with his passion. Kevin is a star who is wholly committed to the game and his teammates; he’s as down-to-earth as they come, intensely loyal, and he possesses an absolutely fierce work ethic. He is literally the prototype for a basketball-first franchise player, even if he can be a bit soft-spoken when the cameras are on him.

This is a great day for basketball fans. An all-basketball All-Star will re-sign with an all-basketball franchise, the Broingtons will stay bros, and the most charismatic team in the league retains perhaps its most endearing element. 

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.