Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game One

Paul George says his uncertainty about whether he wanted Lance Stephenson back was ‘taken way out of context’

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Lance Stephenson was tremendous for the Pacers in the first half of the season, becoming a nightly triple-double threat who played under control and within his team’s system.

The playoffs, however — especially in the series against LeBron James and the Miami Heat — were another story entirely.

Stephenson turned into a wildcard who resorted to non-basketball tactics to try to rattle his opponent. He blew in the ear of LeBron James, and smacked him in the face during a dead ball situation, as well. Pacers president Larry Bird condemned his actions, and head coach Frank Vogel similarly did the same.

Once the series was finished, Paul George was asked directly if he wanted Stephenson back next season, considering he was entering the summer as an unrestricted free agent. George paused, and said “I don’t know” before elaborating a bit further with a more politically correct answer.

Now that a couple of months have passed, George has changed his tune, and says he now would welcome Stephenson back with open arms.

From 1070thefan.com (via HoopsHype):

George also clarified confusion over his infamous “I don’t know” answer when asked after the Game 6 loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals if he’d like to see Lance Stephenson return as a free agent.

“I think that was taken way out of context,” George said. “Obviously, me and Lance have been here four years together. I would love to continue to keep playing with Lance. When I said ‘I don’t know,’ I was speaking on what he’s going to do. I don’t know what he’s going to do, I don’t know what our front office is going to do and at the end of the day that’s my decision. I went through (contract talks), it was tough, but I would love to see No. 1 back here in a Pacers uniform.”

It’s easy for George to say that now, but there was nothing that was taken out of context. His true feelings were evident immediately following his team’s elimination, which were clearly that Stephenson’s clown act had worn thin, and things needed to be sorted out before he absolutely could be certain that he wanted him back next season.

The problem for the Pacers is that they’re maxed out from a salary cap perspective, so there isn’t another direction to go in trying to sign a replacement for what Stephenson will cost. The most likely scenario will be Indiana paying Stephenson in free agency, and then praying he has a normal start to the season which could up his value in trade before the deadline passes.

If they decide to keep him, there’s a real risk that his erratic behavior could re-emerge at the worst possible time.

Mike Krzyzewski: Team USA having too much fun, needs to tone it down

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  DeMar DeRozan #9 of the United States Men's National Team looks on during a break in the action against the China Men's National Team during the second half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Mike Krzyzewski hates fun (even more than he admits).

So, the coach wasn’t thrilled after Team USA’s exhibition win over China, which included DeMar DeRozan nearly 360-degree dunking on someone.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

I want to see Team USA make highlight plays. Dunk from the free-throw line. Shoot from halfcourt. Throw behind-the-back passes. Show up weaker competition.

So, it’s hard for me to get behind Coach K’s criticism.

But I also want to see the Americans win gold medals in the Olympics, and I’ll blame Krzyzewski if they’re not adequately focused.

Fair? Not one bit.

Doesn’t change what I want, though.

Report: Kevin Durant told Russell Westbrook he’d re-sign with the Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 look on prior to game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant said he had to distance himself from Russell Westbrook entering free agency. Yet, Durant listened to the Warriors recruiting him all season and had clearly been interested in Golden State for months.

The writing was on the wall.

Except, a few days before taking meetings in the Hamptons (which led to signing with the Warriors), Durant dined with Westbrook.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant’s sitting there at dinner, telling him “Hey, I’m coming back, man. Don’t worry about it.” And now, Russell Westbrook has been kind of thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected.

Kevin Durant, more so than even that, was telling people, “Hey, yeah, I mean I’m coming back.” Like I said in there, a week before Kevin Durant sat down in the Hamptons, he was in Oklahoma City ready to make an offer on a multi-million-dollar house. So, the guy was pretty serious about coming back, and then things turned rather quickly for him to leave. And there’s no doubt that the organization felt a little bit burned by this.

Maybe Durant said that. Maybe he meant it in the moment. Maybe he was just trying to appease someone he didn’t want to let down. Maybe he was unclear. Maybe Westbrook read too much into a more clear statement.

There’s a lot of room for imperfect recollection/interpretation. We’re dealing with human beings.

Likewise on the house. Who says Durant was “ready” to make an offer? That’s an awfully difficult assessment to make outside his head. Just as the Celtics had a list of players Durant wanted them to add, it seems he was preparing for all contingencies. It’s hard to nail down rather he was house hunting because he was certain he wanted to stay in Oklahoma City or whether he just wanted a new place if he stayed in Oklahoma City.

So much of what we know about Durant’s process for picking the Warriors suggests a rational decision. He considered them for months, met with multiple teams, conferred with his inner circle then made a choice.

If Durant told Westbrook or anyone else he’d re-sign with the Thunder, that obviously changes the equation. But I’m left wondering:

How many people in Oklahoma City heard what they wanted to hear rather than what Durant actually said?

How many people are incentivized to paint Durant as impulsive, because the alternative — Durant thoughtfully deciding the Thunder weren’t his best option — indicates deeper flaws in the franchise?

Watch Carmelo Anthony put up 16 points in third quarter on China

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Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins are pretty much locked in as four of the Team USA starters come the Olympics. But who gets that fifth slot, the one for a wing player? Paul George? Jimmy Butler?

Don’t be shocked if Carmelo Anthony gets that slot.

He helped make his case Tuesday, scoring 16 in the third quarter alone on China in an easy Team USA victory in a pre-Olympics exhibition. Mike Krzyzewski likes to reward veterans, and ‘Melo is one of the old guy leaders of this team who has collected two gold medals already. Don’t be surprised if ‘Melo is a starter in Rio (Draymond Green started Tuesday, but only because the game was at Oracle Arena and Coach K likes to give guys a bigger role in front of the local crowds where they play).

DeMar DeRozan just missed spectacular in-game 360 poster dunk (VIDEO)

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Can a missed dunk attempt be brilliant?

DeMar DeRozan says yes.

The Toronto Raptors guard almost pulled off an in-game 360-dunk over a defender during the USA’s latest rout of China in an Olympics tune-up game. How impressive was the dunk? Ask LeBron James.