Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Baseline to baseline recaps: Kevin Durant is an assassin

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What you missed while watching an octopus pick the BCS matchups….

Lakers 99, Knicks 82: We broke this down as our game of the night.

Thunder 104, Mavericks 102: This was easily the best game the Mavericks have played this season. The ball movement was back, the clever veteran plays were there. Delonte West said they looked different yesterday at practice and they did.

But they don’t have Kevin Durant, so they are 0-3.

The Thunder were sloppy all night — they had 26 turnovers — and Dallas for the first time this season was a team that could take advantage of it. They kept it close behind 29 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 16 from Jason Terry (although he needed 17 shots to do it). Down the stretch a rejuvenated Russell Westbrook was making plays for the Thunder. The close game set up the dramatic finish.

A Jason Terry three leaning to his right made it 101-99, which is how it stayed after Serge Ibaka missed two free throws. Next trip down, with 9.3 seconds remaining, Nowitzki drove to his spot at the left elbow (with Perkins on him), but Durant doubled Dirk off Vince Carter. Nowitzki kicked it out to Carter for an open straight away three, he drained it with 1.4 seconds left. 102-101 Mavs, and it looked like they would get a win. Then this happened.

If the Mavs play like this every game, they will get a lot of wins. But right now the undefeated Thunder look special and the Mavericks are 0-3.

Bulls 108, Kings 98: The Bulls were up 26-11 quickly in this one as not only was Derrick Rose doing his thing but Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng were attacking the rim. The Bulls asserted themselves early for the first time this season. It set a different tone, and the Bulls held on for a comfortable win. Rose finished with 19, Boozer and Richard Hamilton each had 16. Marcus Thornton had 20 to lead the Kings and Jimmer Fredette had 14 off the bench.

Magic 94, Nets 78: Dwight Howard has 16 points and 24 rebounds, showing the Nets would could be theirs if only….

The Magic took control of this game midway through the first quarter and never really looked to be in danger. Marshaun Brooks tried to lead a comeback for the Nets, but it was not enough. So they are left to dream and wonder.

Rockets 105, Spurs 85: This was the game where the Spurs looked tired. Third game in four nights, second night of a back-to-back after spanking the Clippers and that was it for the Spurs. Luis Scola had 10 in the first quarter to help the Rockets get a lead they would never give up, Kevin Martin finished with a game high 25. DeJuan Blair led the Spurs with 22 and was feisty in this one.

Trail Blazers 111, Nuggets 102: When was the last time a team won when it had 25 turnovers compared to its opponents 7?

This was maybe the most entertaining game of the night, a real back-and-forth in the fourth quarter between two genuinely good teams. And it was played at a fast pace (106 possessions). The difference was the second half the Blazers just shot the lights out — 61 percent as a team in the half, and it seemed like every three they took fell. It was the guards that led the Blazers as Wesley Mathews had 25, Raymond Felton 23 and Jamal Crawford 22.

The Blazers are 3-0. And that is no accident.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 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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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.