MRedd

Michael Redd, the same as he ever was

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Michael Redd used to be the center of all things Milwaukee Bucks, but those days are long gone. Injury after injury and rehab after rehab rendered his fully functional return a pipe dream, while his bloated salary handicapped a franchise on the rebuild. Fair or unfair, many among the Bucks faithful hold Redd’s health against him, and the frustration both internally and externally regarding his unfortunate streak of injuries is undoubtedly significant.

In that frustration, I only ask that we not forget that Redd is one of the NBA’s classiest acts, and that as irritating as it is to think of him rehabbing his leg instead of helping his teammates (or even instead of sitting on the bench with them during their brief playoff run), it bugs Redd himself more than you know. Basketball may not be everything to Michael Redd, but you’d better believe that he cares about playing and not playing, leading and not leading, and willing the Bucks to victory or watching them be burdened by his very presence on the roster.

He never chose this path. He didn’t get busted on a criminal charge, face legal allegations of any kind, or divide a locker room with an over-the-top persona. Redd just played basketball. He made mistakes, surely, but the marks held against him are often for events largely out of his control.

I’m not saying you can’t dislike Michael Redd. That’s your business. But hate him? For being injured of all things? That’s beyond petty. His poor health may have crippled the Bucks, but the NBA has far more compelling villains than a humble, professional, former second rounder who carved out a spot for himself in the NBA by expanding his game and sharpening his skill.

Skill he probably won’t be using to help Milwaukee this season, even as he eyes a potential return in February…so long as the Bucks will have him. He’s not forcing his way into any discussion or any rotation. Redd knows that this team is no longer his, and yet his words ring only with hope and humility. Redd’s not throwing a tantrum, not demanding attention, and certainly not making a fuss over the Bucks’ decision to move on. He’ll just play if they need him, and sit if they don’t. Basketball is a passion, but in this case, it need not be a production.

It’s a pity that this is what Redd’s career has been boiled down to. That this is the fate of the man who, about six years ago — before he became a semi-household name and before his own injuries marred his career — shared this exchange with Scoop Jackson of SLAM:

Before each game, he lays his hands on the ball. Rubs them across David Stern and Spalding. And prays. And while most players ask the Lord for 30, not to get embarrassed by Tracy McGrady (who has found ministry through Redd), or a victory so they can maintain home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, Michael Redd prays for health. And nothing more than that.

“When I grab the ball before every game,” he says, “I pray that nobody gets hurt.”

“Nothing else?” I ask him.

“Nothing else.”

This is how he gets down.

It’s how he still does, I’m sure. That prayer means something far more specific now than it ever did then, but the man uttering the words is the same. Redd was a terrific scorer for a long time, but even though he doesn’t cock back his signature jumper these days, he’s no more worthy of hate now than he was six years ago. He’s the same man, even if he’ll never be the same player.

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.