Durant doesn’t buy talk Thunder can’t win it all this year

21 Comments

Not everyone believes the Oklahoma City Thunder have a real chance to win an NBA title. And if you watched the Miami Heat take them apart on Valentines Day, it’s easy to say that the gap between the Heat and Thunder is pretty much still where we left it last June. Which is pretty wide.

TNT’s Charles Barkley is leading the “Oklahoma City has no chance” parade.

Kevin Durant isn’t buying it. Of course, what do you expect him to say? But he said he and his teammates are not listening to the Round Mound of Rebound. Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger spoke with him about it.

“I don’t listen to that guy,” Kevin Durant said, pronouncing those last two words like you would say “Jihad” or “Sequestration…”

“He said that last year,” Durant said. “He said we wouldn’t make it to the Finals — that we were a bunch of jump shooters. But we’re shooting 48 percent as a team. We don’t shoot all 3s and jumpers. We get in the paint. We can do it all.

“So of course he’s gonna say that. You respect sometimes what he says, he’s a funny guy. But we don’t listen to him.”

Apparently he listens to Barkley enough to be bothered by him.

If you think the Thunder have a chance to win it all this season comes down to one thing — do you think the Miami Heat can be beat? If not, well, it doesn’t matter who we discuss as a challenger, does it?

But if you do think someone can beat the Heat then you have to think the Thunder have a shot. The Spurs may be in that mix too, but the Thunder have to be there.

Despite the James Harden trade (and I think they will miss his shot creation come the playoffs) the Thunder are a better team now than they were a year ago. Last season they scored 107.1 points per 100 possessions and gave up and even 100 (for a differential of +7.1). This season their defense is pretty much the same giving up 99.7 points per 100 but they are scoring more, 110.6 (for a differential of 10.9). (Stats via HoopData.)

The fact is Kevin Durant is a better player than he was a year ago, Russell Westbrook is a more mature team leader on the court, and Serge Ibaka has made a big leap. All three of them grew a lot from their Olympic experience last summer. The Thunder are a better team.

Are they good enough to beat the Heat? Watching the Heat lately it’s hard not to join Barkley’s parade, but things could look different by June.

Former Knicks, Warriors F David Lee announces retirement from NBA

AP
Leave a comment

One of the NBA’s more under appreciated forwards has announced his retirement from the NBA.

David Lee, who spent time in his career with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs, told the NBA world about his retirement via his Instagram page on Sunday.

Lee, 34, played last season with the Spurs. He averaged 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists for Gregg Popovich’s team.

Via Instagram:

Lee played 14 seasons in the NBA, the majority of which came with the Knicks. During his time in New York, Lee was seen as an unsung hero, nabbing rebounds and doing yeoman’s work from the power forward position.

The Knicks traded Lee to Golden State in the summer of 2010 for Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, and two second round picks. He was part of the Warriors’ 2014-15 NBA Championship before eventually being traded to Boston in 2015.

Sixers say injured Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks

Getty
Leave a comment

We were all waiting for supposed “good news” about injured Philadelpia 76ers guard and No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. And it looks like we’ve got it? It’s hard to tell with this one.

On Sunday, the Sixers announced that Fultz — suffering from a sore right shoulder — would be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

That’s at least some kind of timeline, which is more than we got when Fultz was originally ruled out indefinitely at the end of October.

Here’s the announcement from the Sixers.

Via Twitter:

Fultz has reportedly been working out and shooting left handed, which one can only hope is adding to his dexterity.

No doubt Sixers fans just want to see him on the court again as quickly as possible. The saga of the imbalanced shoulder has been a strange one, we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it settles normally.

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

Getty Images
6 Comments

We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.