Adam Silver: ‘Kevin Durant embodies what this league is all about, and frankly, Mr. Sterling doesn’t’

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NEW YORK — Adam Silver met the media before Tuesday night’s Draft Lottery, but the vast majority of the questions he received were only tangentially related to basketball.

Instead, the mess involving disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and where the league stands in its process to terminate his ownership stake is what dominated the conversation.

The NBA formally initiated its charge against Sterling on Monday, asserting that he has engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams. Sterling has until May 27 to respond, and then a hearing will be convened on June 3. But given his refusal to pay the $2.5 million fine levied by the league along with a decision to retain legal counsel, a potentially lengthy battle in the courts awaits.

Silver, however, is confident that he made the right decision in acting so swiftly and forcefully, and believes that he’ll be able to execute his plan both successfully and in a timely fashion.

“My confidence level is high,” Silver said. “We know we’re doing the right thing, and I know I have the owners behind me. …  We have a very active advisory finance committee, which is 10 NBA owners who have been meeting on a regular basis to discuss these proceedings, and the timing is laid out in the NBA constitution. We’re following it to the letter in terms of numbers of days that Mr. Sterling has to respond and then when the hearing will be held, and as I said, I know we’re doing the right thing here.  This is an unprecedented proceeding.

“Will there be bumps in the road? Presumably yes. Mr. Sterling on one hand at least in his CNN interview indicated a willingness to accept the judgment of his owner partners.  His lawyers are saying otherwise, so we’ll see. But this will all get worked out. I know we’re pursuing the right course here and doing the right thing.”

Silver was asked about Sterling’s wife Shelly’s interest in the team, even though the NBA had addressed that previously with an official release. Silver reiterated the league’s position, which essentially is that once one owner is ousted, so are any and all of his partners.

“As I understand the position of Mrs. Sterling’s lawyers, in essence they would say we accept you can terminate Mr. Sterling, but somehow Mrs. Sterling comes with the team,” Silver said. “I think even if that’s not what it said in our constitution, it just doesn’t make sense. The same way even if you had unrelated partners, if you terminated the franchise of the primary owner and that owner had several colleagues, cronies, who were also owners with him, it wouldn’t make sense that under our constitution we could then go about selling the team, but those other partners would have to come along.

“So our position is once under the constitution, based on Mr. Sterling’s conduct, if the owners ultimately decide that it’s appropriate to terminate his franchise, the interest of all owners is terminated.”

The fact that all of this is hanging over the league isn’t lost on Silver, especially on a night where the future fortunes of 14 franchises will begin to be shaped by the Lottery results, and in the midst of what has been an incredibly competitive postseason.

“There’s a certain sadness, and you feel it, it’s almost a malaise around the league,” Silver said. “That’s what I sensed when I first met with the Clippers. It was something deeper than anger.”

Silver clearly isn’t pleased by the fact that Sterling’s actions have overshadowed recent events. And he pointed to one of the NBA’s more positive moments in Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech as the type of story that exemplifies what the league is truly all about.

“I remember at one point Kevin Durant says, really in addressing his mother who was sitting in the audience at the end of the speech, I’m paraphrasing, I think, but he said something like, Mom, we weren’t supposed to be here,” Silver said. “The deck was stacked against us. I get choked up a little bit just remembering watching him give that speech, and I think Kevin Durant as our most valuable player embodies what this league is all about, and frankly, Mr. Sterling doesn’t.”

Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan: “I’m not looking to trade Kemba” but he’ll listen

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The Charlotte Hornets are having a disappointing season. Projected by many (myself included) to be a playoff team (with an under/over of 42.5 in Las Vegas), Charlotte is 19-26 and four games out of the playoffs in the East.

That has left Charlotte management with a question: Is it time to trade Kemba Walker, work to tear the team down and rebuild, or do they chase the eight seed? Walker doesn’t want to be traded.

Team owner Michael Jordan doesn’t want to trade him, but he’s listening to offers, he told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“We bred him, we chose him, we groomed him to be a good player for us,” Jordan said of Walker, who the Hornets drafted ninth overall in 2011, to a great extent because Jordan saw traits in Walker that reminded him of his own playing career.

“I’m not looking to trade Kemba, but I would listen to opportunities….

“It’s not like we are shopping him. We would not just give him up. I love Kemba Walker. I would not trade him for anything but an All-Star player.”

Charlotte with Walker is in the same place as the Clippers with DeAndre Jordan — moving him would mean a dramatic shift for the organization going forward, so they are only going to do it with a quality offer in return. It’s going to take some combination of good young players and picks that can jumpstart a rebuild, and in the Hornets case they want to attach one of their bad contracts (such as Marvin Williams).

So far, those offers have not come for either team. The trade market has been tight, in part because a lot of teams are in the playoff hunt (such as the Hornets) and don’t want to move quality players, and in part because teams spent a lot of money in 2016 and are pushing the luxury tax (such as the Hornets) and they can’t take on salary (and with that are finding it hard to move bad contracts).

Come Feb. 9, expect Walker to still be wearing the team uniforms of Charlotte as no deal is found. But also expect Michael Jordan to feel cans for another day.

Watch DeMarcus Cousins’ historic 44/24/10 night

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The last time somebody did this — scored more than 40 points, had more than 20 rebounds, and dished out more than 10 assists in a game — “Poseidon Adventure” was in the theaters and Elton John had just released “Rocket Man.” It was Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was still playing in Milwaukee.

Monday night, DeMarcus Cousins did it.

Cousins scored 44 points, had 24 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists in the Pelicans’ double OT win against Chicago. These were not meaningless points, Cousins picked up seven of them in the second overtime.

Cousins has had a monster first half of the season and earned his first All-Star Game start this year.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.