Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Daniels during their NBA basketball game in Milwaukee

Kevin Durant acting like he wants scoring title

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Kevin Durant said Carmelo Anthony “can have” the scoring title, but Durant’s actions say otherwise, at least according to David Thorpe of ESPN ($):

More importantly, he seems solely focused on winning another scoring title, which is driving his number of contested shots up and his field goal percentage down.

But lately Durant has become visibly frustrated when things stand in his way of winning the scoring title. In a recent game, he barked at the scorer’s table when he noticed they had not yet recorded his bucket on the JumboTron. In another instance, he chided Jackson for electing to pass to a more open teammate on a 3-on-1 break, despite the play resulting in a dunk that put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter. Why? Durant knew the opposing team would call a timeout and in all likelihood he would not re-enter the game.

Durant also yelled at teammates for not pushing the ball when he alone would benefit from an easy basket, even when not pushing the ball was the better choice. And more than ever before, Durant can be seen raising his hands as he stands on the perimeter, calling for the ball as if his teammates don’t know where he is at all times. It is not easy to commit to an action when your team’s best player — and the league’s leading scorer — is looking for the pass.

George Gervin’s and David Thompson’s scoring race in 1978 – when Thompson scored 73 point on the season’s final day only to lose the season title to Gervin, who scored 63 points later in the day – has been remembered fondly as a great individual battle.

Why can’t Durant and Melo try to repeat that magic?

The Thunder are fairly solidly slotted into the NBA’s third-best record. Even if they force-feed Durant a little bit – and maybe they should, considering his true shooting percentage is his career best, and his usage percentage is still below his career average – Oklahoma City’s playoff positioning is very likely to remain unaffected.

Durant is a superstar, and if he wants to chase the scoring title, the Thunder should accommodate him. Superstars have made much more unreasonable requests. That’s the nature of the game. Superstars get their way. If this is the most Durant taxes the Thunder for his services, they should be so lucky.

An obsessively competitive person with an otherworldly ability to score wants to win a scoring title? So long as his focus shifts to winning first once the playoffs begin, Durant should get the leeway to chase this if that’s what he wants.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout

Steve Clifford
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The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.

Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.

Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.

Unless…

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.

“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”

Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.

I’m here for that.

I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.

Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.

But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.