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.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.

PBT Podcast: Future of Isaiah Thomas, Ricky Rubio, also award talk with Dan Feldman

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We asked for your questions on Twitter and Facebook, and you gave myself and Dan Feldman got some fascinating discussion points:

If the Celtics land a top two pick, what does that mean for the future of Isaiah Thomas in Boston?

Is Ricky Rubio‘s run of strong play mean he remains the point guard of the future in Minnesota?

How good is Devin Booker?

We discuss all of that plus the NBA end of season awards that we are still looking at and trying to make up our minds about.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.