There’s smoke… and fire in talk of Durant joining Turkish team Besiktas

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Oh, no. Not another “NBA Player rumored to be considering playing overseas” post. These are all the same. That Turkish team Besiktas keeps saying it’s talking to players and then nothing happens, players won’t even confirm they had the talks. It’s all a bunch of… oh, wait.

Agent Aaron Goodwin told ESPN.com on Tuesday night that he has met with officials from Turkish club Besiktas and has likewise begun exploring opportunities for Durant in Spain and Russia. Goodwin added that playing in China is not something Durant is considering at this time.

“The Turkish option is very intriguing,” Goodwin said. “We’re looking at other countries as well. Kevin hasn’t agreed to play anywhere yet, but we’re looking for the best fit.”

via Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant in early stages of contract negotiations with Turkish team, agent says – ESPN.

Well, then.

The report originally surfaced from a Turkish newspaper reporter as translated by HoopsHype.

This is notable for a few reasons. First off, this isn’t Besiktas floating rumors about meetings with Kobe Bryant (which continue to go nowhere as our esteemed Blogger-in-Chief predicted) and having them be unsubstantiated. This is an agent for an NBA player confirming that he’s in talks with Besiktas, along with teams from two other countries. This is a progressive step forward for the concept most people are hyper-skeptical of, players going overseas and actually playing during the lockout.

That said, it’s still just talk. Until Durant’s name is on a dotted line and his bag are packed, everyone’s going to remain skeptical of this happening.

Still, it’s also interesting that Durant, much like Deron Williams, comes from a small-market team. This is a chance to expand their personal horizons and global brand in a rare opportunity. Durant obviously spent time in Turkey last summer as part of Team USA. This provides him with a big chance to do two things he loves: being loved by the masses and playing basketball. Durant’s shown with all this Pro Am and summer league play that he just wants to play basketball, and with his youth and health (knock on wood), he’s a prime candidate.

This also is going to put a huge spur in the side of Clay Bennett. Bennett is a smart businessman, and it’s been rumored he’s been a part of the contingent of smaller market and newer owners wrestling for a total year-long lockout in order to change the model. But having the star of his franchise, the jewel of the crown he brought to Oklahoma City risking injury every night making someone else money in Istanbul or Madrid is going to give him pause. He won’t admit it, he won’t respond to it. But it’s going to make for some tension. If Durant goes, again, which is key.

The talk continues, but man, it’s getting louder and louder.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

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After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.

Kristaps Porzingis officially day-to-day, questionable vs. OKC

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Knicks fans can exhale now.

There was understandable concern after face of the franchise Kritaps Porzingis had to leave the game in Brooklyn Thursday night following a non-contact injury.

Turns out there is nothing to worry about. After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media and was standing on the leg, a good sign. By Friday, after a day of treatment, he was doing well. Officially Porzingis is day-to-day and may sit out Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but the injury is nothing serious. Ian Begley of ESPN has the details.

Porzingis’ knee was “worked on” on Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased, league sources told ESPN. It is unclear if Porzingis underwent an MRI or had X-rays to further determine the extent of the injury but sources say he did not undergo significant testing because it wasn’t warranted based on the state of the injury.

Good. We don’t need another star down with a major injury this season.

Especially Porzingis, who has led the Knicks to a 15-13 record (sixth in the East, in the playoffs) while putting up All-Star numbers: 25.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, plus grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game. Maybe more impressive is how he has anchored a solid Knicks defense this season with his rim protection. Stay healthy and he should make his first All-Star team this season.