Durant defends his shot volume and why it’s not higher

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Monday night in a loss to San Antonio, Kevin Durant hit 7-of-13 shots on his way to 26 points. Russell Westbrook on the other hand put up 27 shots (including a ridiculous half-court shot trying to draw a foul), hit 11, and finished with an inefficient 25 points.

Tuesday that brought up the same old “why doesn’t Kevin Durant get more shots?” discussion. As noted by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Thunder are on pace to become the second team ever to have the scoring champion take the second most shots on his own team. Thank you Westbrook.

Durant said it’s not about the number of shots, it’s about making the right basketball play, via the Oklahoman.

“I can do whatever I want on the offensive end,” Durant said. “I can come down and take 30 shots. That’s not the right brand of basketball for me, to just come down and shoot. It’s not because of the defense limiting me to 13 shots. I could have shot more than that, but I was trying to make the right basketball play.”

We should add in Durant’s defense here he got to the free throw line 11 times, he made plays that didn’t count as shot attempts.

Sometimes as fans we have a sense that our stars must play a certain way — Jordan took over games, Kobe Bryant willingly takes over games, why won’t Kevin Durant? (Remember LeBron James used to hear the same thing.) But Durant is not Kobe nor does he want to be.

Durant is right that for the Thunder to take the next step it can’t be about him jacking up more shots, his buckets need to come out of the flow of the offense. Teams are going to work to not let the best pure scorer in the game get easy looks and the Thunder as a team have to make them pay with ball movement and other guys scoring.

There needs to be a balance. Westbrook needs to pick his spots better on when to shoot and when to set up Durant and others, and frankly he has been better this year. He wasn’t against the Spurs.

The bottom line is Durant and Westbrook remain one of the best combinations in the NBA, two guys under age 25 who led their team to the NBA finals. They are a team on the cusp of a title, a true contender. The loss Monday was one March game. Don’t go overboard with your reactions in OKC. Especially to the Spurs game, which was the Thunder’s fifth game in seven days. Move on.

Reports: Pelicans to sign Jameer Nelson with Rondo out

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With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.

This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.

While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.

Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.

The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.

Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.

Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.

The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.

DeMarcus Cousins fined $25,000 for cursing at fan

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Near the end of New Orleans’ season-opening loss in Memphis, DeMarcus Cousins started getting into a war of words with a female Grizzlies fan, an exchange where allegedly “F-bombs” were dropped in both directions.

That’s going to cost Cousins.

Saturday the league announced that the Pelicans’ center has been fined $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language towards a fan.”

Cousins got a technical foul during this exchange, and that has been rescinded.

Cousins has averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds a game through two games this season, but it hasn’t been enough as New Orleans has started the season 0-2.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.