Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching the Dallas Cowboys miss the playoffs again…
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. With Russell Westbrook out a whole lot more scoring load falls on Durant’s shoulders — and he answered against a tired Rockets team. Durant had 31 points on 11-17 shooting, 13 rebounds, and chipped in five assists. Durant is going to be the guy with the ball,
But Durant will need some help, which brings us to…
Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City Thunder. He finished with 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting. You can say the Thunder need more nights like that from Lamb with Westbrook out, but the reality is they most need this kind of performance from him once the playoffs start — they need a reliable third scoring option and Lamb looked like it Sunday a
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. If you just look at the numbers you see a near triple double — 29 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. What it doesn’t tell you is he had 24 points in the first half and then came out after the break and went 1-for-11 shooting. But the green light never goes off for Curry, so in OT with the Warriors up two, Curry dribbled left and hit the leaner going left for the dagger. It’s what shooters do.
Philadelphia veterans Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner. A lot of players could have known their team was rebuilding and just packed it in early, but credit these veterans for still bringing it — and Sunday night getting the Sixers a win. Young scored 25 and had 9 rebounds; Spencer Hawes poured in 19 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and had 5 assists; and Evan Turner scored 22 points with 10 of those in the fourth quarter.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade share a very close friendship.
LeBron and Pat Riley – who signed LeBron and Wade to the Heat in 2010 – have a much more complicated relationship.
Riley seemingly challenged LeBron entering the 2014 offseason, and LeBron left Miami to return to the Cavs. Then, Riley couldn’t stop telling everyone how surprised he was LeBron left. After LeBron departed, Riley noted how the Heat had “no more smiling faces with hidden agendas.”
So, about the intersection of the LeBron-Wade friendship and Riley-LeBron relationship…
Pablo Torre of ESPN:
On-court effort, after all, isn’t really why Heat president Pat Riley quietly detests the Wade-James friendship.
as coach of the Heat, Riley kept the spirit of the ’80s alive by reportedly instituting a $1,500 fine for any player who helped an opponent up off the floor.
Riley wasn’t complaining when LeBron’s friendship with Wade helped lure the star forward to Miami. Riley wasn’t complaining when LeBron led the Heat to two championships, either.
But I at least understand where Riley is coming from. His old-school sensibilities don’t allow for friendships across teams, and there are legitimate reasons to draw a line.
Wade addressed this well with Torre in a feature on the LeBron-Wade friendship that’s well worth reading in full. Wade:
“You’re talking about two guys who went to the Finals together, four years in a row,” Wade says. “My job and his job was to get as close as possible, to know everything about each other and get on the same page as two leaders on the team. And then he goes elsewhere and you ask us to hate each other! It’s ridiculous.”
Nicolas Batum‘s agent said the forward would miss France’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, at least according to a translated report.
Batum will be a free agent, and he can’t sign until July 7. The qualifying tournament begins July 5.
However, it is understood that the French player and the Hornets will quickly agree terms on a new deal and that could could give France enough time to obtain insurance for Batum and allow him to take part in some of the OQT games.
Although the situation has been complicated, Batum is such a talent that France are doing everything they can to have him at the OQT
What is certain is that Batum will be in Pau, France, when the national team launches its preparations 10 June. He will do physical work but not take part in drills or scrimmages in order to avoid contact.
This seems like wishful thinking by France.
The French are in a loaded qualifier – including Canada and Turkey – and they clearly want to reach Rio. Batum would surely help.
But the timing makes it difficult. Even if Batum is set on returning to the Hornets, it’d be foolish to play before signing the deal. Still, it’d be possible to sign immediately after the moratorium and then play in France’s second game.
The bigger issue is Batum’s conditioning. The same injury risk that likely prevents him playing until his NBA contract becomes official should limit his training now. Can he turn around after months of taking it easy and contribute at a high level the next day?
And there’s no guarantee Batum re-signs with Charlotte. He could explore the market and pick a team that doesn’t want its new high-priced signing risking his health in international play.
I can’t rule out Batum playing for France in the qualifying tournament, but there are so many hurdles to clear.
Bismack Biyombo has been doing the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag after blocks for years, and the Raptors center has said Mutombo gave him permission.
But with Biyombo breaking out and blocking shots during the playoffs, it has drawn more attention – and Mutombo’s ire.
Mutombo, via TMZ:
“I don’t know when did that conversation took place,” Mutombo said … “Him and I need to talk this summer.”
“He claim in the newspaper and everywhere he said I gave it to him. I said, Did I gave him? Was it family? Cosign? But you know what, he’s a young man, man, I let him enjoy the fame. He’s making me famous!”
“I will see him in the Congo this summer so him and I will talk back home with nobody around us.”
This is dumb.
1. Mutombo already approved of Biyombo finger-wagging. Mike Mazzeo of ESPN:
2. I’m sure Biyombo means nothing but to pay tribute to Mutombo and show up opponents – two noble goals. There is no good reason for Mutombo to be upset. He’s being honored.
Yet, this whole thing has Biyombo on edge. Josh Lewenberg of TSN:
Keep finger-wagging, Bismack. Mutombo will come around.
Bradley Beal isn’t messing around when setting his value in free agency this summer.
“I’m a max player.”
Apparently, the Wizards agree.
J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Just as the Wizards did with John Wall, offering him a max deal early in the process of negotiation, they’ll do the same with Bradley Beal, a person with knowledge of the situation told CSNmidatlantic.com earlier this week.
This is a smart move.
Washington could let the market dictate Beal’s price, but with the salary cap skyrocketing, it’s bound to come in at a max salary anyway. By offering him a max deal on day one, the Wizards can get Beal on board with re-signing when the time is right.
Beal’s cap number will be $14,236,685 until signed or renounced. Once signed, his 2016-17 salary will become his cap number, and the max projects to be $21,579,000. So, Washington could spend the difference (projected to be $7,342,315) then exceed the cap to re-sign Beal using his Bird rights.
Beal could get impatient and interrupt those plans, but why would he sign a max offer sheet elsewhere (projected to be worth about $92 million over four years) that the Wizards will surely match if he can just re-sign directly and get about $124 million over five years? Washington is trying to ensure he doesn’t find a reason.