LAS VEGAS — Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about him. Specifically, where he might play starting in the fall of 2016 after he becomes a free agent and signs a new contract.
“It’s been talked about. Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter. All my friends ask me about it,” Durant said at Team USA Camp in Las Vegas. “So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m naive to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody, ‘Look, I’m here in Oklahoma City. I love it here. Who knows what’ll happen?'”
That’s not exactly going to quiet the chatter. Nor is it going to tamp down the hopes of Wizards fans (Durant is a Washington D.C. native) or other fan bases from New York to Los Angeles that believe they have a shot at Durant in 2016.
Durant was pressed by reporters to talk about his future Tuesday after another day of Team USA practice in Las Vegas. To his credit, he didn’t dodge the questions, he answered them seemingly honestly.
Durant genuinely doesn’t seem to know what he’s going to do in two summers — nor should he. That’s a long time away. He very well may decide to stay with the Thunder (especially if they win a ring). But two years is a couple lifetimes in the NBA and, as Durant said, who knows what will happen.
If you’re looking for clues to how Durant is thinking, you can try to parse out what he said when asked what he thought of LeBron James’ decision to return to his home and play for the Cavaliers again.
“It was class act,” Durant said of LeBron’s letter. “Great move to do a letter, that was pretty cool. It’s fun to see a guy think about more than just basketball for once, or themselves. I’m not saying LeBron always thinks about himself. But he thought about ‘where do we come from?’ Northeast Ohio. How he can affect some little kids and be an advisor for them. I love that. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making their decision on what’s best for them instead of what’s best for everybody else. We got to respect him. I applauded him. I texted him to tell him congratulations on his decision. I was happy for him.”
Expect Durant to take a big picture view like that when it’s his turn. What does that mean? It’s impossible to say two years out.
Which means the speculation and chatter are just going to grow. For a long time.
Bradley Beal isn’t messing around when setting his value in free agency this summer.
“I’m a max player.”
Apparently, the Wizards agree.
J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Just as the Wizards did with John Wall, offering him a max deal early in the process of negotiation, they’ll do the same with Bradley Beal, a person with knowledge of the situation told CSNmidatlantic.com earlier this week.
This is a smart move.
Washington could let the market dictate Beal’s price, but with the salary cap skyrocketing, it’s bound to come in at a max salary anyway. By offering him a max deal on day one, the Wizards can get Beal on board with re-signing when the time is right.
Beal’s cap number will be $14,236,685 until signed or renounced. Once signed, his 2016-17 salary will become his cap number, and the max projects to be $21,579,000. So, Washington could spend the difference (projected to be $7,342,315) then exceed the cap to re-sign Beal using his Bird rights.
Beal could get impatient and interrupt those plans, but why would he sign a max offer sheet elsewhere (projected to be worth about $92 million over four years) that the Wizards will surely match if he can just re-sign directly and get about $124 million over five years? Washington is trying to ensure he doesn’t find a reason.
Some Cavaliers fans still want to put an asterisk on the Warriors’ 2015 championship, because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were injured during the Finals.
Apparently, Golden State had the complete opposite view.
Zach Lowe of ESPN:
Irving and Love have been the central players in Cleveland’s worst breakdowns. Opponents in the playoffs have scored 1.09 points per chance when they involve those two as the primary pick-and-roll defenders in a play that leads directly to a shot attempt, drawn foul or turnover, per SportVU data provided to ESPN.com. That would have ranked last by a mile among 119 two-man combos that defended at least 250 pick-and-rolls in the regular season, per that SportVU data set.
Zoom out to include any trip that features a pick-and-roll targeting Irving and Love at any time, and the number gets worse: a hideous 1.207 points allowed per possession, stingier than only one of those 119 duos — the Jrue Holiday/Ryan Anderson pairing in New Orleans.
Opponents know this stuff. They are putting Irving and Love into twice as many pick-and-rolls each game as they averaged in the regular-season, a massive jump out of proportion to the slight uptick in minutes the two are playing together. These are the sort of numbers that had members of the Golden State Warriors’ coaching staff quietly fretting when both Love and Irving missed last year’s NBA Finals, forcing the Cavs to play superior defenders in their place.
This is how the Warriors operate. They’re arrogant. They reportedly believed they’d sign Kevin Durant. Owner Joe Lacob told The New York Times: “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things. We’re going to be a handful for the rest of the N.B.A. to deal with for a long time.”
So, I believe Golden State thought Irving and Love – two stars – getting hurt lowered its odds of winning. That doesn’t make the Warriors right, but there is a logic to this thought process.
If the Cavs would’ve had their top talent – including Irving and Love – on the floor, I don’t think they could’ve played the grind-it-out style that better matched up with Golden State. Giving more prominent roles to Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova and running all the offense through LeBron James made the game rougher and slower, and the Warriors struggled in that style.
That’s why I don’t accept this thought process: “Cleveland pushed the Warriors to six games without Irving and Love. Imagine what the Cavs would’ve done with those two.” It’s not that simple. The Cavaliers couldn’t have played the same way with Irving and Love, and the freer-paced alternative would’ve played into Golden State’s hands.
I believe the Warriors would’ve won that series regardless of Irving’s and Love’s injuries. Many disagree. We’ll never know.
But I do get a kick out of the idea that Cleveland fans and Golden State coaches were similarly – though for very differently reasons – distraught about Irving’s and Love’s injures.
Update: Lowe clarified in an update to his piece:
Toronto might have been one gaffe by Pacers coach Frank Vogel in Game 5 away from bowing out in the first round again, a crusher that would have raised questions about Casey’s job security — even with Toronto holding a 2016-17 option they were leaning toward picking up regardless of the Pacers series, sources say.
These types of mixed signals show why you shouldn’t always take general managers at their word when they give coaches votes of confidence.
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri on Dwane Casey before the playoffs, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:
If we don’t go past the first round, what’s going to happen? Coach Casey deserves to be the coach. He deserves to be our coach in the future.
Casey was coming off an impressive regular season. Toronto won a franchise-record 56 games, and Casey finished fifth in Coach of the Year voting.
But would the Raptors really keep him if they lost in the first round as the higher seed for the third straight year?
I know what Ujiri said. But it’s one thing to like Casey as a coach – I do – and another to watch another first-round upset unfold in front of your eyes. The experience of seeing four losses to the Pacers can change someone’s mind – and reportedly would’ve changed Ujiri’s.
Zach Lowe of ESPN:
Toronto might have been one gaffe by Pacers coach Frank Vogel in Game 5 away from bowing out in the first round again, a crusher that would have cost Casey his job, per several league sources.
Of course, the Raptors beat Indiana in seven games, slipped past the Heat in seven games and have beaten the Cavaliers twice in the Eastern Conference finals. That ought to preserve Casey’s job, even if Toronto is eliminated in Game 6 tonight.
The Raptors are at the point where they need a quality playoff coach. For the better part of three straight postseasons, Casey didn’t look like one. He still hasn’t come close to answering all the questions about him, but he has created enough doubt about his postseason proficiency.
Casey has done quality work transforming the Raptors. Unless they’re more certain he can’t get the deeper in the playoffs, they should keep him and give him a chance to try.
Why did the Warriors beat the Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals last night?
Andrew Bogut‘s rim protection? Kevin Durant‘s and Russell Westbrook‘s teammates not doing enough? Stephen Curry‘s late defense?
Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan:
The difference in the game was the fact that they went to the free-throw line 34 times.
The discrepancy tonight for free throws, for whatever reason, that was really, to me, the difference in the game.
Yes, Golden State shot 34 free throws to the Thunder’s 24 – and made 31 to the Thunder’s 20 – in a 120-111 win.
But nine of the Warriors’ attempts and makes came in the final 1:02, beginning with a curiously timed Donovan technical foul and then Oklahoma City intentionally fouling. The Thunder also hacked Bogut earlier in the fourth quarter, and he went 1-for-2 at the line. Remove those, and the free-throw attempts are 25-24.
It was a little surprising when Oklahoma City intentionally fouled Klay Thompson down nine with 55 seconds left. Trailing teams should generally begin fouling sooner than they do to increase variance, but most don’t. They usually defend in those situations, which makes me wonder about a deeper motivation.
Did Donovan, realizing the Thunder were going to lose anyway, get a technical foul then order intentional fouling sooner than usual so he could complain about the free-throw disparity and lobby for more favorable calls in Game 6?