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Kevin Durant says LeBron James “paved the way” for his move, will other free agents follow?

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When LeBron James jumped from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat, there was a backlash about how this had ruined his reputation, that he was soft, and that this was a terrible thing for the NBA.

Seven years later, and seven Finals appearances with three titles later, that’s not really the case. Granted, it took a handful of titles and a return to Cleveland for everyone to come around again, but through it all NBA ratings kept climbing, LeBron’s rings helped secure his legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats, and he’s selling more shoes here and overseas than ever. LeBron’s brand was fine.

We heard the same complaints this year with Kevin Durant in Golden State, and in an article for Bleacher Report Magazine Durant told Howard Beck that LeBron paved the way, and discussed his choice to join a powerhouse.

Though Durant says he did not consider James’ precedent, he readily admits, “He paved the way.”…

“As time goes on, and the changes start to become normal, people will start looking at it as normal,” Durant says. “I hope and pray that they make a decision that’s best for them, and nobody else….

“That’s what free agency is about—doing what you want to do. I commend LeBron. I commend LaMarcus Aldridge. I commend guys that stay, because they did what they wanted to do. That’s the power of free agency.”

Durant has not seen near the backlash LeBron did, and if he wins a title or three in Golden State, in 15 years nobody is going to look back at those as somehow tainted. Anyone saying that is just trying to make noise in the moment (or from OKC). Also, since Game 2 was the highest-rated Game 2 in the Finals since the Jordan era, most fans don’t seem bothered either.

Durant is right, free agency is earned in the NBA through time played in the league, and once earned players should do with it what is best for them. Leave, stay, either way they have earned a right to choose where they work the same way you and I could switch jobs if unhappy, or if we are offered more money.

The NBA has put a salary cap in place to make it difficult to form superteams like the Warriors, and KD’s move was only possible because of a couple of big fluke things (Curry’s ankle issues when he signed his last contract, keeping his price down, and the spike in the salary cap due to the new television deal). It will be much harder for other teams to form these kinds of powerhouses.

But it will happen. Maybe more and more often now with this precedent set. Go read the entire Bleacher Report article to see the concern from some around the league.

Is that bad for the NBA? The league was its most popular when Michael Jordan powered a superteam in Chicago. The groundwork for his explosion was laid by super teams on the Lakers and Celtics. The NBA has always thrived with its biggest stars on its biggest stage, and if you flatten out the talent pool too much to try to get a return to the 1970s… when were the Finals shown then? Oh, that’s right, on tape delay after the late news. Things are not headed back to that era, but you get the point. Complain about superteams if you wish, history suggests they are not bad for the NBA.

Thunder pick up Paul George in his return to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left, but George got a steal then hit a couple free throws.

The Pacers’ winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer’s blockbuster trade, didn’t go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn’t have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists.

The result: Both teams struggled.

Indiana led 27-22 after one but gave the lead right back by allowing Oklahoma City to start the second quarter on a 9-0 spurt.

After the Pacers answered with a 9-0 run, the Thunder closed the half on a 9-3 spurt to make it 51-46.

The trend continued in the second half.

Indiana charged back to take a 63-59 lead before the Thunder used an 11-2 run to pull out to a 73-69 lead going into the fourth.

Oklahoma City extended the lead to 92-81 with 5:16 to go but only scored six points the rest of the way. That was just enough to hold on.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Oklahoma City is 4-10 on the road. … Oklahoma City got its first series split with the Pacers since 2012-13. … Oklahoma City had 17 offensive rebounds and was 13 of 29 on 3-pointers.

Pacers: Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. … Made 11 3s but fell to 14-3 when making 10 or more 3-pointers in a game this season. … Center Myles Turner had three blocks, his 12th game this season with three or more. … Former Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game. He’s in town for Thursday night’s NFL game between the Colts and Broncos.

ALL-STAR DAY

The Pacers got a win before they even took the floor.

A little less than three hours before tip, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Indiana would host the 2021 All-Star Game. It will be the first time the Pacers have hosted the marquee event since 1985.

The move comes seven months after Larry Bird hand-delivered the formal proposal at the league’s New York headquarters in an IndyCar.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Faces Philadelphia on Friday, trying to improve to 17-1 in the series since moving to Oklahoma City.

Pacers: Host Detroit on Friday, seeking a seventh straight home win in the series.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.