Wednesday NBA grades: Kevin Durant ends season exactly like you think he would


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while losing yourself in an oral history of the rap battles from 8 Mile….

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. Great stat via Royce Young at Durant is only the fourth player to average 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists a game for a season. Who are the other three? Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor. Durant is your MVP ladies and gentlemen, and he played like it on the final night of the season, dropping 42 on the Pistons to make sure the Thunder get the two seed and have home court against the Clippers. The Thunder were down 8 entering the fourth quarter and down 5 with 1:30 left, but Durant scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and sparked a 10-2 run to close out the game so the Thunder won. And he hit the game winner with authority.

source:  Memphis Grizzlies. They needed to win to avoid the Spurs in the first round (ever since they beat the Spurs in the playoffs a few years back the Spurs have absolutely owned the Grizzlies). Dallas also had been swept by the Spurs and wanted to avoid a trip to the Riverwalk, but in overtime the Grizzlies had Mike Conley who had 5 points in the extra period, including a head-down rim attack to draw a foul late, then sank the free throws that were the game winners. Monta Ellis had a clean look at the game winner for Dallas but it bounced harmlessly off the rim. So congratulations on the win Memphis… now go prepare for Kevin Durant.

source:  Brooklyn Nets. They stumble and look unimpressive in their final two games of the season, getting crushed by the Knicks and Cavaliers. For that they now get to face the Raptors instead of the Bulls in the first round… are you sure that wasn’t intentional?

source:   Trey Burke, Utah Jazz. The first of three rookies to make the grades on the last night of the season. He missed the start of the season due to injury and had his share of his rookie stumbles as happens, but he is learning. He dropped 32 on the Timberwolves, including nine in the second overtime, to secure a Jazz win on the final night of the season. There’s a lot of building to do in Utah, but he should be part of it.

source:   Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings. The Suns beat the Kings on the final night of the season because the Suns are a better team. McLemore struggled this season as he adjusted to the NBA, but he showed flashes and improvement as it went on, and he did that again on Wednesday with a career-high 31 points, five assists, and five rebounds. His athleticism wasn’t ever in question, but when you combine it with his jump shot falling watch out.

source:   Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons. Leave on a high note — this was easily his best game of the season. Caldwell-Pope had 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting, more importantly he was aggressive. He can play a quiet game, just trying to fit in, and Wednesday night he wanted the rock and wanted to make plays. That Caldwell-Pope needs to show up in Detroit for next season.

Stan Van Gundy goes off on officials: “We got absolutely screwed all night”

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The Pistons were likely to lose to the red-hot Trail Blazers on the road, and that came to be Saturday night 100-87, Portland 12th straight win. The Pistons shot 38.8 percent for the game and had a dreadful offensive rating of 93.8 (points per 100 possessions).

Portland is one the top five defensive teams in the NBA this season, but that’s not what Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy thought was the problem — he laid the blame on the officiating.

That’s going to be a fine.

Van Gundy is frustrated — with this game and with this season. So are Pistons fans, and seemingly so is Detroit owner Tom Gores after his lukewarm vote of confidence in Van Gundy recently. They should be, this team is a disappointment and the Blake Griffin trade was a big swing that has yet to work out. The Pistons are going to miss the playoffs. Around the league, the sense is that Van Gundy will lose his GM job to former super agent Arn Tellem, who was brought in to guide the Pistons into their new building but now whose talents would better serve the basketball side of the operation. The only question is will Van Gundy still be coaching in Detroit next season — just coaching, like Doc Rivers with the Clippers — or of the change will be more sweeping than that.

Hornets’ coach gives savage, frank assessment of Willy Hernangomez

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When Willy Hernangomez was not getting much run with the Knicks this season, especially as injuries opened up space in the front line rotation, there were questions as to why. Then the #freeWillyHernangomez movement popped up.

Eventually, Hernangomez was traded to the Hornets where… he barely plays. He’s gotten more than 10 minutes just once since coming to Charlotte.

What gives? Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford didn’t hold back when answering that question to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“If you were in one place and didn’t play much, if you want to play more in the next place, I’d say work harder and kill myself,” Clifford said at the Hornets shootaround at the Players Association’s midtown headquarters. “The reality is he wasn’t playing here for a reason. He’s got to change things…

“He’s not up to speed on what we’re doing to play a lot,” Clifford said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him. He’s smart, but he’s not this high-flier, phenomenal, natural athlete able to make up ground. He’s got to be on top of things, especially on the defensive end. If he’s not detailed defensively, he’s not that [athletic] guy…

“To be an every-night player, and I’ve told him this, he’s got to improve his shooting,” Clifford said. “He is right now, in my opinion, a back-to-the-basket player who can pass. But the reality is his passing doesn’t come into play until they have to get close to him and know he’s not going to knock down a shot. And he’s not a knockdown shooter.”

Well then.

Just to be clear he’s got to put in a lot more effort, become smarter on the defensive end, and improve his shooting. That’s a healthy off-season checklist.

Hernangomez has another year on his contract at a very reasonable $1.5 million before the Hornets have to make any kind of decision on him, which means whoever is the new GM in Charlotte he will choose to keep Hernangomez around. For now. He flashed potential his rookie season with the Knicks, when asked to play strictly to his strengths, but Clifford and the Hornets — and basically every other team in the NBA — is going to ask more of him.

Clifford was clear, as no doubt he has been clear to Hernangomez (Clifford is as straight a shooter as the league has). The ball is in Hernangomez’s court.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis denies drug charges while eating Popeyes on a charter plane

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Best. Denial. Ever.

Last month, former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore by Jimmy McNulty and Lt. Daniels with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a police report. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute.

Davis has declared his innocence in the best denial video ever — eating Popeyes chicken and flashing cash and a championship ring.

I have no idea whether Davis is guilty or not, I was not at a Hampton’s Inn outside Baltimore last month. The court system will sort that out, that is what it’s there for.

But I know a brilliant video when I see one. This is it.

Report: Michele Roberts to seek second contract as players’ union head

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Michele Roberts entered the NBA’s player union in a tumultuous time — long-time union president Billy Hunter had been ousted in a rancorous fight, the union felt adrift, and negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were looming (and players felt they had been screwed in the last CBA, following the lockout).

Roberts, the first female head of a professional sports labor union, settled things down. She cleaned up the union finances and made them more transparent to players, she worked hard to establish relationships with the players, and while she rattled some sabers with the NBA in negotiations, she also worked in a non-combative way with Adam Silver and team (unlike the Billy Hunter/David Stern relationship) and got a deal done the players liked without a lockout or labor mess.

Roberts’ contract with the union is up, but she is going to ask for a new deal — one she likely gets — reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN…

Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said.

NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.

Roberts also has a good relationship with the star-heavy executive committee of the union — CP3, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and others — making it likely she gets a new deal.

As for what’s next, at the front of that list Roberts is working with Silver and others on reforming the NBA’s one-and-done rule (it was supposed to be part of the CBA negotiations but was too big and complex an issue to fold into that timeline).

Neither the owners or players can opt out of the CBA for four more years (and if neither side does it runs a couple more beyond that) so labor peace will continue in the NBA for a while.