Kevin Durant: ‘I can do a lot more’

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Anyway you slice it, Kevin Durant is doing a lot for the Thunder.

Traditional stats say Durant is averaging 34.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals in 44.3 minutes per game since Russell Westbrook’s injury.

Advanced stats say Durant has 2.2 win shares for a team that has won five playoff games, which means Durant alone has accounted for 44 percent of his team’s wins – the highest mark on a team still playing. Stephen Curry is closest at 32 percent. (Though the incredible Chris Paul accounted for 65 percent of the Clippers’ two wins.)

The eye test says Durant is playing exactly like a superstar should when his team is shorthanded.

Via Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

“I can do a lot more,” Durant said Sunday. “It’s always things you can do more. I talk to one of my good friends and he said no matter how good you’re playing you always can do more.

“That’s how I look at it. I just got to find ways to help them out and put them in great positions and continue to just be a vocal leader, a positive leader on the bench and every single time down the court and we’ll be fine.”

I can’t help but think of LeBron James. In 2005-06, LeBron became arguably the best player in the NBA. That was the first season he got a first-place MVP vote, at least.

Anyway, beginning with that season, LeBron spent five years in Cleveland as arguably the league’s best player. In those five years, the Cavaliers were more likely to lose before the conference finals than reach them. The point being, carrying a team at this level is hard – really, really hard.

But it’s also an opportunity for Durant.

Durant just had the best season of his career, maybe the best season by anyone other than LeBron since the mid-1990s. But Durant got no MVP support, and LeBron again ran away with the award. As we all know, LeBron – not Durant – is the best basketball player in the world right now.

LeBron took a team that started Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic to the NBA Finals. Two years later, he took a team that started Mo Williams, Delonte West, Ilgauskas and Varejao back to the conference finals.

If Durant can carry the Thunder – a team that still has a better supporting cast than LeBron’s Cavs but plays in a much-tougher Western Conference – to the NBA Finals, the feat could vault Durant into the peripheral of the best-player discussion.

I don’t know whether Durant can do more, but I look forward to watching him try.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.