Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Four

Kevin Durant wants to see his teammates cut, move if Chris Paul is put on him again

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Kevin Durant is going to get flack from some of you for this, but he is right to a large degree.

Down 16 in the fourth quarter Sunday the Clippers went with an ultra-small lineup (three guards and Blake Griffin as center) and asked Chris Paul to guard Kevin Durant. The Thunder understandably wanted to exploit that. In theory Durant should be able to shoot over the top of CP3 all day long. But in reality two things happened — the Clippers brought a quick, aggressive double to Durant on those plays. Second, everybody else on the Thunder stood around and watched Durant get doubled. Their offense became stagnant. The Clippers came back to win.

Speaking with the media Monday, Durant said it would take a team effort to break down that Clippers’ defense.

Here is what Durant said, via Jeff Caplan at NBA.com.

“Everybody keeps saying Chris Paul guarding me. It wasn’t just Paul,” Durant told reporters following the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Monday practice back at their training facility. “He’s physical, he’s smaller than me, of course it was harder when little guys get up under you. But they’re not just going to let Chris Paul play me one-on-one. That’s a team game. Basically they got three guys watching me, got a guy behind me so when I caught it they double-teamed as soon as I caught it, and when they didn’t double-team, I scored.

“So people always got something to say about the one-on-one match-ups, which never happens in this league, especially with me. I got to figure out ways to cut harder and make harder movements because if they’re going to put two guys on me than my teammates are going to be open.”

He’s right to a degree (although Durant seemed at points to be passive in this situation as well, he’s not blameless). This is not the first time teams have gone with a smaller defender on Durant — last series 6’4″ Tony Allen was on Durant for Memphis. What is different is the hard double teams, that the Thunder did not respond to.  This is a team thing for the Thunder, and their ability to play consistently with one another and not just next to one another has been one of the question marks about this team.

More from Durant, via Royce Young at Daily Thunder.

“We’ve got to move it. We can’t just sit there and try and force it to me,” Durant said. “Because that’s what they want me to do. They want those guys to front and get up under me. Once we pass it, they’re coming for a double-team and we’ve got to pass out and that’s when we make plays. By the time we just sit there and force feed it down, time is running off and when it’s time to pass out of it there’s two or three on the shot clock. So I’ve got to move around a little more and not demand the ball when there’s two guys guarding me. Just make the defense move.”

What putting guards on Durant does is take away his ability to drive (CP3 is quick enough to get where Durant wants to go first and has the hands to strip the ball if it comes down low). But Durant has advantages too. When the double comes the Thunder should be two or three passes away from a good look (watch the Spurs’ offense for examples). OKC didn’t do that, they stalled out and watched. Then they got frustrated. Then they carried that frustration over to the defensive end of the court and started gambling on steals and not taking away drives to the basket, the Clippers got to the rim at will in the fourth quarter.

This is all very correctable for the Thunder, play smart and they should rip apart the gimmick small lineup the Clippers threw at them. If they can’t then they deserve what is coming their way, which would be a playoff exit in the second round. And a whole lot of questions.

Nerlens Noel calls Sixers crowded center situation “silly,” adds it “doesn’t make sense”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Jahlil Okafor #8 and Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers play in the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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He’s right. And Philadelphia management knows it.

At the center position, the Sixers have the athletic and defensive minded Nerlens Noel, the offensive-minded Jahlil Okafor, and the untested player who may be the best of the group in Joel Embiid. Elton Brand is on the roster as well.

That’s a lot of talented young players and not enough minutes to go around. Nerlens Noel called the situation out as “silly” speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey. At least he didn’t go so far as to request a trade.

“I think it’s just silly . . . this situation that we are in now with three starting centers,” Noel said on the eve of the Sixers’ media day. “With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to get something done this summer…

“I feel like it definitely needs to be figured out,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it’s just not going to work to anybody’s advantage having that on the same team. That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated….

“Don’t get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court,” Noel said. “But at the end of the day, it’s like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The Sixers wouldn’t officially comment, but this summer they did try to get something done — Okafor and Noel were on the trade block. The problem is all the offers that came in were low ball. GM Bryan Colangelo has said he didn’t want to go into the season with this situation at center, but he also wasn’t going to give away one of these three for pennies on the dollar. Colangelo wanted a fair deal.
We saw last season that Okafor and Noel can’t play together, and now the Sixers need to see which ones of these three can play well with No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, who will be a point-forward much of the time.
Expect a deal to get done to move one of the three centers — and it very well could be Noel, he drew the most interest from other teams. It could happen during training camp, or maybe closer to the trade deadline. Maybe this stretches into next season.
But the Sixers know this doesn’t make sense, they just haven’t been able to remedy the situation. Yet.

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

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.