Thunder-Spurs: The life and times of Kevin Durant in Game 1

30 Comments

Momma said there’d be days like this.

Kevin Durant had a pretty bizarre Game 1 vs. San Antonio. He couldn’t get it going in the first half, shook loose in the third quarter, and then was bottled up by San Antonio in the fourth. He hit free throws, a result of the Spurs’ defensive approach on him, but was just 0-2 from the field. Forget the percentage, Kevin Durant got two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter. Is that going to cut it? Obviously not, as the Spurs won 101-98.

Of the many things the Thunder needed in Game 1, Thabo Sefolosha on the floor in the 4th, more control and patience from Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Manu Ginobili to vanish from the Earth suddenly in an alien abduction, they also needed a smarter game from Durant. 27 points on 19 shots is perfectly efficient for Durant, but it could have been more. Truth be told, the Spurs had no real answer for Durant’s length. Stephen Jackson dug in. Kawhi Leonard pestered. But if Durant managed his offense better, he could have had more.

But can you pin this loss on Durant? No. He gave them 27 on 19, and that should be good enough.

However, Durant is going to have to take the hardest assignment. He did it in Round 2 vs. Kobe Bryant. He’s going to have to do it in the WCF against Manu Ginobili.

The Thunder have no one to even slow down Ginobili. Harden is wholly outmatched. Westbrook has his hands full with Parker. Thabo Sefolosha can help, but he should honestly be guarding Parker. Durant needs to use his length and lateral quickness to guard Ginobili. Cut off the angles, limit the penetration, contest the shots. Sefolosha needs work on him. Durant needs work on him.

Are there tangible things Durant can do better? It’s hard to say. Should Westbrook or Harden improve? Undeniably.

But Durant has the most advantages, as usual, more than usual. It was clear from the start. Durant is going to have to be more than just a scoring machine. He has to be dominant in every area, making a difference on every level. That’s how good the Spurs are.

Larry Nance Jr. to wear father’s retired No. 22 Cavaliers jersey

Leave a comment

Larry Nance Jr. took on the 2018 NBA Dunk Contest in his dad’s old Phoenix Suns jersey, which was a nice nod to the father-son NBA duo. But Nance Jr. wanted to be able to wear his pop’s No. 22 jersey in Ohio despite the team retiring those digits some time ago.

Now, he has his wish.

According to the team, Nance Jr. will get to wear No. 22 the rest of the season. Nance Sr.’s banner will still hang at The Q in honor of his contribution to the franchise.

Via Twitter:

Will this spur a new round of jersey sales like the one prompted by Dwyane Wade‘s return to the Miami Heat? Probably not, although folks do dig those late-’80s and early-’90s Cavs uniforms. Perhaps the team should do a re-issue?

Shouts to the team for making a special accommodation for the Nance family. It’s nice to see a team not be so stiff about something this cool.

Report: NBA setting up confidential hotline for team employees to report workplace issues

Getty Images
3 Comments

In the Dallas Mavericks organization, women who were being sexually harassed by the CEO and others did exactly what they were supposed to do — they reported the incidents to their supervisors and the head of Human Relations in the organization. Nothing happened. The men kept their jobs, the women kept on being harassed — some had their jobs threatened if they spoke out — and the old boys networked thrived.

The NBA is giving future employees in that situation another option. From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

It’s a good first step.

The NBA is a league that prides itself on being progressive, promoting equality, and this Mavericks scandal is a black eye for the league on this front. While they will wait for the hired team of lawyers to finish their investigation before any punishment is handed out — and there will be punishment — the league needs to take proactive steps now. This is a good one. There needs to be more.

Already? Giannis Antetokounmpo says Joel Embiid tried to recruit him to Sixers

Getty Images
3 Comments

The Greek Freak (now trademarked) Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a Buck for a while — he has three fully guaranteed years on his contract after this one, taking him until at least the summer of 2021. At that point, Milwaukee almost certainly will be able to offer him the designated player super max contract that will be hard to turn down. The Greek Freak is going to be in Milwaukee for a long time.

That didn’t stop Joel Embiid, who tried to recruit Antetokounmpo to Sixers during All-Star weekend. Via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said with a chuckle, drawing a laugh. “That was my reaction — I just laughed.”

Of course, if somewhere down the line Antetokounmpo and Embiid team up some tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist will say “they have been planning this since 2018.”

Embiid probably did this tongue in cheek, but he is fearless about this stuff — remember a couple of summers ago he tried to recruit Kevin Durant through social media.

As for Antetokounmpo and the Sixers, nothing to see here, move along.

Rumor: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert might not offer LeBron James no-trade clause in next contract

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
8 Comments

The Cavaliers’ three deadline-day trades appear to have invigorated LeBron James, but a key issue remains as LeBron’s player option approaches: Dan Gilbert still owns the Cavs.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

“LeBron wants to be in charge of everything, which is what puts him at odds with Dan,” one source said. “Dan wants to be in charge of everything.”

The belief is that Gilbert, having reasserted control after chasing out Griffin, will rebuff James’ request for a no-trade clause, or any other measures that give him leverage. And that will be enough to drive James away.

“Dan Gilbert’s not going to do what it takes to keep him,” the same source predicted. “Not a chance in hell he’s going to give him a no-trade clause, or let him dictate contract terms.”

LeBron’s no-trade clause might have been useful this season. When things got particularly bad in Cleveland, he affirmed he wouldn’t waive it. I doubt the Cavs would have dealt him regardless, but he made it a certainty.

But a no-trade clause was relevant only because LeBron signed a multi-year contract due to salary-cap rules relevant in 2016. With those no longer pertinent, he might go back to the 1+1 deals he first signed in his return to Cleveland. That’d give him an implicit no-trade clause, as those contracts are treated as one-year deals until the option is exercised, and players on one-year contracts who’d have early or full Bird Rights after can veto any trade.

Still, Gilbert taking this stance would matter if LeBron wants to sign long-term. An official no-trade clause would also carry over to LeBron’s next team if he approves a trade or in the second year of a 1+1 if he opts in. The implicit no-trade would not.

That could be enough for LeBron to demand the official no-trade clause – not just for the possibility it’s useful, but to show he can get it. He seems unwilling to give an inch. It’s about respect.

It also might be about stubbornness – both LeBron’s and Gilbert’s. This would be a ridiculous battleground for LeBron’s Cavaliers tenure to end on – just give LeBron whatever contract he wants – but it wouldn’t be the first ridiculous showdown between Gilbert and LeBron.